A/N: This one-shot was written as a birthday present for our dear friend and beta, kimberlycullen10. She has a thing for Jake and the Pack in general, and we decided to have a little fun with that.

We don't own Twilight or its characters, but we do like to do naughty things with them.

Marked and Be Careful What You Wish For readers – there's an important A/N at the bottom for you!

"Jacob Michael Black! Would you please just go out for a walk or something before you drive me completely crazy?"

I cringed as I heard Billy yelling at me from his spot next to the couch. I had been cleaning the house to the point of being borderline OCD about it. Everything was spotless and right where it was supposed to be. The house hadn't been this neat in...well...years, since normally Dad and I didn't care much about how it looked.

So why was today different?

Well, Rachel and Paul were coming home.

Rachel was returning from a stint as a volunteer teacher in Brazil for some tribes there. I had never understood why she couldn't just teach for one of the local tribes, but hey, who am I to argue? At least she had the guts to leave this place, whereas I was still stuck here - too afraid of the big bad world, at least according to both her and Rebecca.

Rebecca, being the loving sister that she is, didn't have any qualms with telling me what she thought about the fact that I had never strayed far from home. Well...not counting the two months I had run away, but let me get back to that later. Rebecca and Rachel had both left the Rez as soon as they possibly could and never really looked back. I couldn't blame them. They had never gotten over the loss of our mother, Sarah.

While I missed her, too, someone had to take care of our dad, and that someone was me. For the most part, I had never minded it. Being home and taking care of him was safe. It was something I knew, and Billy never questioned me about anything. It's a guy-thing, I guess.

I sighed, running my hands through my hair, which was, thankfully, growing back after an idiotic moment when I'd decided to chop it all off in a fit of rebellion. I glanced at Billy, who was looking at me pointedly, checking to make sure I'd heard him.

"Alright, alright! I'm going. I need some air anyway. You going to be okay, old man?"

I studied him from the kitchen where I had been straightening out the pantry. Billy just rolled his eyes at me, muttering something under his breath. Apparently that was the only response I was going to get, so I grabbed my denim jacket on my way out the door and headed to the beach. It was my favorite place - apart from my garage - to go and think. It was always peaceful there, even when it was storming and the waves came crashing onto the sand.

My mind wandered to Paul as I walked to the piece of driftwood I had long since claimed as my perch. I sat down and stretched my long legs out in front of me as I leaned against the branches that made it the perfect lounging spot.

Paul and I were the same age. In high school, he had been a couple of inches shorter than me, but he had a broader build. His hair had been long like mine back then, falling to the middle of his back. He used to have a temper that flared easily and often, and he always seemed to be getting in some sort of trouble. Everyone blamed it on the fact that he had no real parental supervision, since his parents had passed away when he was still young, and his grandfather was getting too old to really take care of him. In fact, Paul was in a similar boat as I was - he took care of his grandfather more than the other way around, just like I did with Billy. I knew how hard it was, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Well, I tried to, most of the time.

Other times, my temper got the best of me. He could get under my skin like no one else...mostly because I had a crush on him. I often wondered why I liked him, since he almost always acted like a complete ass to me. As a result, I was a dick to him. In all honesty, I was just as bad as he was because I couldn't bear the thought of him finding out I was gay - and interested in him.

I had known I was different from other boys ever since they started to notice girls. I didn't. To me, it wasn't the sight of a girl - or woman - that had my blood run hot. No amount of boobs or parts of girls I never really wanted to see again held my interest. I faked it, though.

I had to.

I hated the thought of anyone finding out that it wasn't girls that tortured me. It was Phys Ed...more specifically, the locker rooms afterward. If anyone ever discovered my secret, I wasn't sure what would happen, but I was certain it wouldn't be good. It took awhile for me to fully understand that my "difference" was actually that I was gay. I had a hard time accepting what that meant, and as far as I was aware, there were no other gays on the Rez. I was alone.

Alone, and head over heels for the bad boy of my class - Paul.

With his temper, I was certain that if he ever learned of my crush on him, he would hate me. He would very likely fight me - hell, he fought everyone at one point or another for far lesser reasons. So I did all I could to keep anyone from finding out. I tried to stay away from him, but it was like I was drawn to him, so my side of our relationship consisted of me antagonizing him and just being an ass in general.

On the other hand, that behavior wasn't reserved especially for Paul back then. At sixteen, I thought I knew everything. I had all the answers - even if I had none for myself.

That year, Bella moved back to Forks to live with her dad. I'd known her my whole life, but when her parents divorced, she moved with her mother and only came to Washington to visit her dad during the summers. Within a few months of her return to the area, she hooked up with Edward Cullen.

Between Forks and the Rez, there wasn't a lot to do besides gossip, so there was very little that wasn't known about the Cullens. Between Carlisle Cullen, Edward's father, being a doctor at the hospital in Forks and Bella's father, Charlie, being the Chief of Police, they were the talk of the town.

It didn't take long for rumors to circulate, and suffice to say, Edward Cullen had a reputation of being controlling and domineering. He also had a general attitude that suggested he was above it all.

He left for whatever reason just after she turned eighteen, and she was heartbroken. She had always been one of my best friends - in spite of the distance and infrequent visits over the years - and it killed me to see her in pain. She hid herself away for about three months before slowly starting to come out of her shell. She finally began to visit the Rez again after she picked up a couple of bikes and needed a good mechanic...me.

Rebuilding the bikes was her way of working through her pain, and I wasn't about to refuse her. Anything I could do to make her Bella again, I would do. I cared a great deal about her, and for a while, I even tried to make myself feel more for her. I tried to love her - to force feelings to exist that didn't. As close as we became, people around us assumed that we were together - even though we weren't.

When Edward suddenly returned - for reasons I still don't know or understand - she took him back without question. She became more like her old self again, though I could see there was still the ghost of the hole in her heart he had left behind. He became even more controlling than he had been before he disappeared. He refused to allow her to go to the Rez, which hurt - a lot. It hurt her, too; I knew that. It took weeks before she was able to sneak away and longer still before he finally relaxed his stance.

It was during one of her rare visits that I did something really, really stupid. Bella and I were walking on the beach - actually only a few feet from where I was currently sitting - and I was trying to convince her that she should dump Edward. Of course, she wouldn't hear of it, and - being the idiot sixteen-year-old I was - I decided that the best thing to do was kiss her.

I knew that both our dads would be pleased as punch if Bella and I ended up together.

I knew that if I would ever be able to be with any girl, it would be Bella - though I also knew without a doubt that it wasn't my heart but my mind that had come to that conclusion.

I knew she loved Edward with all her heart.

Still, I kissed her. She tried to push me away at first, to stop me, but I kept on going. She stopped fighting back, going limp in my arms as I tried to convince myself and her that this was the answer.

When I finally pulled away, she hit me square on the jaw, breaking her hand in the process. She was absolutely pissed, and rightfully so. It stung - both her anger and the hit - but I put on a façade so she wouldn't be able to see the pain I felt inside.

Because whatever else was going on, I had just had my first kiss - and it had done nothing for me but break my heart. It wasn't because the girl obviously didn't care for me in that way, but because I couldn't make myself feel that way for a girl - even if that girl was Bella.

I made sure Bella got home safely and then hung around and talked to Charlie for a bit while Bella went off to the Cullens' to let Carlisle check out her hand. I didn't really want to see her when she returned. I was too afraid of what might happen in the wake of my new discovery, so I went home and locked myself in my room. It wasn't until I had flung myself on my bed and pulled my blanket over my head that I allowed everything to come out.

It was pointless to deny it anymore: I was gay. But I had no idea how to deal with that when it came to telling anyone. I was worried how Billy would react - I mean, he was cool and let me do my thing most of the time, but he was one of the tribal Elders. How would it be for him to have a gay son? I was supposed to succeed him, but who would follow me?

What would my friends think? Would they treat me differently? I was sure they would - they'd have to, right?

I had a million-and-one questions running in my head, and no answers. In the end, I didn't do a thing. Eventually - once she started speaking to me again and gave me a chance to explain myself - I came out to Bella, though I made her promise to keep it to herself. She turned out to be my number one supporter and confidante. I even told her about my crush on Paul.

I sighed, shaking my head at myself as I stared out over the ocean. Bella had kept my secrets - for the most part, at least. As far as I knew, Paul never found out about how I felt for him. Things went fine for the months following my coming out to Bella - right up until we got the invitation to her wedding.

From Edward.

I had no clue why he sent it instead of her, but I was sure it was another way he tried to control her. I knew she had never wanted to get married, not after watching her parents' divorce - and she had just graduated from high school, for Christ's sake! Between those frustrations and the looks of sympathy I got from Billy, something snapped.

That very night, I ran away. I couldn't take it anymore. I was so scared about how Billy would react to my revelation, especially when he clearly thought I was in love with Bella. It killed me to think that he might see me as a disappointment...that maybe he wouldn't love me anymore.

So I ran.

I traveled around for about two months. I called home regularly to let Billy know I was alive and well. After the first call and hearing his pleading for me to come home, I always spoke quickly, talking over him so as not to give him another chance. I knew that if I heard him begging again, I would give in and return, and that was something I wasn't ready for.

After a while though, I couldn't take it anymore. I missed my dad, my friends, Bella. Above all, I just missed being home.

I came back on the day of Bella's wedding, crashing it to let her know I was back and hopefully here to stay - if Billy would let me. I was determined to come out to him - and I prayed to every god and ancestor I had that he would still love me.

As it turned out, Billy already knew. After I ran away, Bella had told Billy her suspicions about my reasons. I knew she didn't do it to betray my trust, that it was done out of love and concern over me - and I didn't hold it against her. From what he told me that night, he had suspected for a while that I might be gay, and he claimed he didn't care. It didn't matter to him. I was his son, and he loved me. Period. The end.

I had never been more relieved in my life.

But there was still the matter of Paul. We were in our senior year, and I hadn't come out to anyone other than Bella and my dad - nor did I intend to, at least not until we were out of school. I figured that was one situation I didn't need to put myself in. School was difficult enough already without adding that into the mix. So I kept right on pretending I hated Paul's guts, and he continued to be his asinine self.

Something had changed, though. Apparently while I was on the run, Rachel came home to take care of Dad - and around the same time, Paul started to hang out at our house. Everyone thought it was because he had a thing for my sister - including me. When I came back, it hurt like hell to see them together because, as far as anyone could tell, they were thick as thieves, even to the point of cuddling up on the couch together.

It was agony. More so because she was my sister, and I couldn't very well deny her any happiness, even if Paul was a few years younger than her. So not only did I have to endure being around him at school, I also had to deal with having him in the house almost every day.

Sometimes, when I went off on Paul for some stupid reason, Rachel would give me a certain look. I never understood it, and I never asked her about it, just chalked it up to her being defensive of her boyfriend.

By the time we finally graduated, I didn't know whether to be relieved or upset that I wouldn't have to be around Paul as much anymore. At least, I had assumed that no school equaled seeing less of him. Instead, he hung around the house more often. The tribe had come together and arranged for his grandfather to receive a helper four days a week during the summer, freeing up his time. I knew that Paul had qualified for a full scholarship and that he was going to be attending the University of Oregon in Eugene come September.

The weeks leading up to his leaving were sheer torture. He and Rachel spent a lot of time together and were often laughing about something. Sometimes I couldn't help but wonder if they were laughing about me because they would stop as soon as they noticed I was in the room.

It hurt.

In part because I had never heard Paul laugh as often and as freely as he did with Rachel, and I wanted desperately to be the one who made him laugh - to be the one who made him so carefree and happy, like Rachel seemed to do.

And then, of course, there was the fact that they would stop as soon as I was around. The thought that Paul was laughing behind my back, about me, cut me deep. It also made me an even bigger dick around him than I was already being. Pun definitely not intended.

The day Paul left, he came to say goodbye to Rachel. A very small part of me was relieved - elated, even - at no longer having to be around the source of my turmoil, while a bigger part just wanted to hide away because he was leaving.

I ended up doing just that - I hid. Or, more accurately perhaps, I made myself scarce and took a very long walk along the beach. I didn't come home until after twilight, and when I walked through the door, Rachel just shook her head at me. I couldn't be bothered to ask her why - talking was not very high on my to-do list at that point.

With Paul gone, life settled down somewhat for me. Rachel stayed at the Rez, saying there was no point in going back to Hawaii where she had been living with Becca and her husband for a while. She was waiting to hear back about volunteering as a teacher for Indian tribes in South America. She was looking forward to traveling and learning about various cultures and whatever else she would be doing.

I didn't pay her much attention. I loved her; she was my sister, but at that point in time I was too preoccupied with my own feelings. I kept to myself, leaving her to take care of Billy while I tried to figure out what to do with myself. With no school and no Paul, the idea of coming out publicly wasn't as impossible anymore.

It was, however, terrifying.

Billy understood and let me do my thing, as he always did. I split my time between walking along the beach and working on my Rabbit again as I contemplated my life. Bella called a couple of times but never really had time to talk. I missed her. I needed my confidante, but as usual Edward stood in the way.

Rachel received notice that she was going to leave for Peru before Christmas and would be gone for almost a year. I had never seen her as excited as when she got the news, and I was happy for her.

Billy and I helped her get everything in order over the weeks that followed, and we had an early Christmas together, since she would be gone. Charlie borrowed a minivan from one of his deputies and drove us all to Seattle so we could see Rachel off. Paul called the night before her departure, wishing her luck. She took the phone into the bedroom and stayed for almost half an hour. I felt a pang of jealousy at that but, again, kept it to myself. She was leaving, Paul was gone, and I wasn't out. It didn't matter anyway, right?

Once Rachel was past security, Charlie drove us around on some errands since we were in the city anyway. On the way home, we grabbed a subdued dinner in Port Angeles, and then Charlie dropped us off at the Rez. Things were quieter in the house with Rachel gone, and I could tell Billy missed having her around - though he was proud of her for doing what she did. In truth, I was kind of proud of her, too, even if I'd never cop to it.

The next few months went by without much happening. Billy and I settled into our old routine, and I started working on cars for people on the Rez. Charlie even came to me with his car and started sending people my way if they needed repairs. Before too long, I was actually pretty busy and making a fair bit of money even though I kept my prices below that of the nearest mechanic, which was in Port Angeles.

It wasn't until the spring that I finally worked up enough nerve to quietly come out to my friends and family. Embry, Quil, and Seth all took it in stride. Leah...well, Leah was Leah - abrasive with a general attitude of "I don't give a fuck".

There were some who didn't take it as well and started either ignoring me or giving me a hard time. It wasn't so much that they did anything - I was never directly targeted in any way - but they sometimes "accidentally" let me overhear a comment as I walked by. When some in the tribe started trying to keep work from me, Billy stepped in. I didn't ask him to, and I was both grateful and upset that he had done it, but after a long meeting with the Elders, they put a stop to it.

From that day on, the only thing that happened was the occasional comment. Everything else went back to normal, and business picked up again. In the end, though, nothing really changed for me after coming out. I had never been one to go out much, aside from hanging out with my friends, which consisted of cliff diving, biking, or hiking - and I still did all those things. The only difference was that I no longer had to hide part of me away. They all knew, and the people that mattered still treated me as Jake.

That was six years ago. Life had gone on, and I was happy. Well, mostly happy, because while I watched my friends fall in love and couple up with Quil and Claire at the forefront, I was still alone and, yes, still a virgin. I had yet to get over my feelings for Paul, even though I was certain that he and Rachel were involved. I just couldn't seem to let it go. I was stuck, or at least it felt like it. Between my feelings for him and the fact that there weren't exactly any other men around to even experiment with...yeah, Jacob Michael Black had yet to get any. In any way.

Go me.

I closed my eyes, tilting my head back to the thick branch I was leaning against, and sighed.


He was moving back to the Rez today, and I wasn't sure how to feel about that. I hadn't seen him at all since he left for college. He hadn't come back once, even though he lived less than a day's drive from here. He buckled down and studied hard, while holding down a part-time job. Rachel mentioned that he also did a lot of volunteer work to help with his education. He had taken his chance to make something of his life very seriously, it seemed - something I was both proud and envious of.

I knew the Tribal Council had offered him a counseling job, and I knew that - for the time being, at least - he was moving back in with his grandfather, since he wasn't doing well at all. Billy said that Rachel had told him that Paul wanted to come home in order to spend what little time his grandfather had left with him.

In that same conversation with Billy, I learned that Rachel would also be moving home to take a job as a teacher at the Rez school. Billy told me she was ready to settle down at last after all of her stints teaching abroad.

When I heard that Rachel would be flying not to Seattle, but to Eugene so that she and Paul could drive up to the Rez together, I was sure that I was right. They were together - or they would be as soon as they got here. The idea of having to stick around and watch the two of them be happy and in love made me ache inside...which in turn made me feel horrible for a wholly different reason. This was my sister, after all; if she was happy, then shouldn't I be happy for her?

I groaned, banging my head lightly against the branch as if the answer could be knocked into my brain by force. The closer it had gotten to the day of their return, the more the idea of leaving had played in my mind. I wouldn't be able to stay and watch; it would hurt too much. It already did, and they weren't even here yet. At the same time, though, I didn't want to leave. This was my home, the place I felt I belonged.

And of course Paul would be here.

Such a fucked up, double-edged sword...

I can't do this again. I can't be that close to him. It'll only end up the way we always were. If he and Rach are together...I can't do that to her. It wouldn't be fair...

I sighed, muttering under my breath, "Guess I have no choice then. I'm going to have to leave La Push..."

"I really wish you wouldn't."

I bolted upright at the sound of his voice so close to me. My eyes flew wide open in shock, my heart beating so fast I was sure it was trying to escape my chest.

"Fucking hell, Paul! When did you become such a stealthy fucker? You shouldn't sneak up on people like that..."

He was standing right next to me, one hand resting on the branch I had been leaning against. He had an odd look in his eyes as he watched me, but he didn't say anything. I must have been too deep in my own mind to not have heard him come this close to me, and honestly, that thought worried me a little.

What the hell else did I mutter out loud?

It took me a few seconds for his words to sink in, and then I shifted in my seat to look at him with a raised brow. "Why would you care whether I stick around or not?"

I berated myself for having instantly gone back to the antagonizing tone of voice I always used with him. Hadn't I just thought that I couldn't do that anymore, for Rachel's sake? I just couldn't seem to help it, though. He had taken me by surprise, maybe heard things he shouldn't hear, and I felt...vulnerable.

Paul ran a hand through his hair and heaved a sigh, his eyes darting around the area before he looked back at me. He went to the rock that was about a foot away from my piece of driftwood and took a seat, his elbows rested on his knees as he laced his fingers together. I couldn't have described the look on his face, but it unsettled me, and I felt my hackles rising against my will.

He let out a slow breath, but instead of answering my question, he asked one of his own, gauging my reaction carefully.

"Jake...do you know why I chose to go to Oregon?"

I sat back against the branch again, crossing my arms over my chest. I frowned as I wondered what the hell that had to do with anything, and I said as much. His jaw clenched a couple of times as if he was trying to keep his temper in check.

Well, that's a first...

Once he had collected himself again, he said, "It has everything to do with it, Jacob."

I huffed, rolling my eyes. "Well enlighten me, then."

He narrowed his eyes briefly, but still he kept his temper under control. I was both impressed and annoyed - part of me wanted to get him angry, and I knew I was goading him. It would be so much easier to be around him if things were the way they used to be, with us sneering at each other and acting like jackasses. I didn't know how to deal with a Paul who was in control of himself and who held his emotions in check.

"It was one of the few places that accepted my scholarship and also had a Queer Studies program."

The words hung in the air as he watched me for a reaction. I stared at him as I tried to wrap my mind around what he had said. Why would he want to study that?

As if answering my unspoken question, he lowered his eyes to the sand and quietly added, "I know how difficult it is for us to be what we are, Jake. How hard it is for a young person living under the conditions we do to come out. There are so many expectations, and so few people around - but at the same time, the community can feel like too many people altogether. It's...daunting, to say the least."

Wait...what? What's he saying?

I couldn't seem to get my brain to function right as I stuttered out, "Difficult...for us?"

He looked up at me, his eyes boring straight into mine. "You're a braver man than I am, Jacob Black. You came out. Here. To everyone on the Rez. I couldn't. I didn't come out until I was safely in Eugene - with one exception."

My mouth fell open at his words, and I sat gaping at him like a complete tool. "Wait...what about my sister? What about Rachel? Does she know?"

He nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving mine. I couldn't have looked away if I'd tried. "She's the one exception, Jake. She was the only one I told before I left for college, the only one who knew."

"But...you were always so...I thought you were..."

I couldn't form a complete sentence anymore, but he seemed to understand what I was trying to say. A small smile formed on his lips as he said, "So did everyone about you and Bella, remember?"

I frowned at him, sitting up and shifting so I had both feet planted on the ground, leaning closer to him. "Alright, so...you're gay. That still doesn't answer my initial question, Paul. Why would you care about what I do or where I go?"

He looked away then, staring at the ocean as if trying to find something. After a minute, he turned back to me again with a sigh. "I've always cared, Jake. Why do you think I was at Billy's so often after you ran away?"

Did I just land in the Twilight Zone or something?

I tried to surreptitiously pinch myself, wondering if I had possibly fallen asleep and this was all some weird dream.

Ouch! Definitely not a dream...

Paul quirked a brow at me and looked like he was trying to hold back a smirk, but his eyes were twinkling.


He didn't say anything for a while, but when it was clear I wasn't going to answer - hell, I didn't know what to say - he finally cleared his throat.

He looked down at his feet, his brow furrowing, and I thought I heard him murmur, "Alright...confession time, I guess..."

He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before he said, "Being at your house after you ran away was the only way I had to feel closer to you, Jacob. When you left..." He paused, glancing up at me briefly before focusing on his feet again. "I know I was a jerk to you back then. Hell, I was an ass to most everybody at the time, but to you worst of all. I'm sorry for that."

I just stared at him, my mind trying to process what my ears were hearing. He explained that he had known he was gay, but he hated being even more different than he already was. He didn't want to be gay. He didn't want to like guys - all he had wanted was to just be normal and fit in. And he couldn't. So he had acted out.

He went on, saying that he had been attracted to me even then and had tried to fight it. He had, for a time, hated me for making him feel the way he did, though he realized it wasn't my fault. He thanked me for always having been there for him in spite of it all - even my own crappy attitude toward him. I had to swallow hard at that because even with everything I had been going through, I had always tried to help him when I could, simply because we were in such similar situations. I had known firsthand how hard it was to be that young and have to take care of the person who should have been taking care of me.

He gave a dark chuckle when he told me about coming out to Rachel, which wasn't so much him confiding in her as it was her calling him out on it. She had become suspicious of him when he began to hang around the house. He never asked about me, but Billy always gave him an update.

He admitted that, at some point during my time away, he had gone into my bedroom and fallen asleep on my bed. That was when Rachel caught him, calling him to the carpet, and he admitted his feelings to her. He said that he begged her not to tell anyone, that he had been sure I would hate him.

At that point, I was staring at him in wide-eyed disbelief - not because I didn't think he was being truthful, but because of how utterly stupid we had both been and how much time had been lost because of it.

That was then, though, and this was now. So many years had passed us by. He had been gone for so long...surely he didn't feel that way still. He'd had a chance to be out in the world, to discover himself. Hell, being on campus, he would have had ample opportunity to do a lot of discovering, whereas I had been stuck here, alone.

I shook my head, not willing to believe anything good would come of his confessions. It just couldn't be...

He ran his fingers through his hair, a fond smile on his lips as he said, "Rachel helped me a lot, both while you were gone and after you came home. She's the one that helped me get the scholarship, that helped me figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life. She's been there whenever I needed someone to talk to. She's a pretty awesome girl, Jake."

I rolled my eyes, snorting. "Yeah, awesome..."

His eyes narrowed, but he didn't respond. We sat in silence for a little while as he let me digest everything he had shared up to that point. I shifted in my seat, placing one foot on the trunk and leaning back against the branch so I could look out over the sea. The breaking of the waves had a soothing quality that I craved right then. I felt as if everything I had ever thought or been sure of in my life was now turned upside down.

I thought about what he had said. On some level, it felt good to hear him admit his feelings back then - to know that I wasn't the only one going through all of those confusing emotions. In a way, I wasn't alone anymore. At least now there was someone else on the Rez that was out. That had to mean something, right?

But I still couldn't get everything to add up.

I rested my arm on my knee as I continued to look out over the ocean, but I watched him out of the corner of my eye. He was fidgeting, playing with his thumbnail the way he always had when he was nervous, and I couldn't help but wonder what there was left for him to be nervous about. He'd already come out, hadn't he? He'd told me about the reasons for his actions back in high school and had apologized for his behavior. That was it, right?

A small part of me recognized that I hadn't done the same for him, but I couldn't just yet. There were still some questions I needed answered.

"So you accepted that you were gay, you had feelings for me, and Rachel helped you figure out what you wanted to do. You got a scholarship and got the hell out of here. Good for you, Paul. Why didn't you ever come back? You say you had a crush on me, but you never told me, and you never came back until now. Tell me, Paul...why is that?"

It was needling at me that he had never come home. If what he said was true, if he really had had a crush on me...why not come back? Especially after he came out, too? It hurt, and my voice betrayed my pain and, truth be told, my disdain. I saw him cringe a little at my words, and a small part of me was pleased to see the reaction.

When he didn't answer me straight away, I looked over to find him watching me with a frown on his face, his head tilted slightly to the right, and a look in his eyes as if he was trying to figure out the meaning of life. His bottom lip disappeared between his teeth, and the sight was more enticing than I cared to admit - especially to him, and especially right then.

His voice was so low, I had to strain to hear him.

"I was afraid to come home, Jake. I hadn't come out...well, not here, anyway. No one besides Rachel, the Tribal Council, and Grandpa knows yet - well, and you, now. I wasn't ready to have anyone know. It took me a long time to get there."

"That's it? You were afraid to come home because you hadn't come out yet? Bullshit, Paul."

He huffed, looking down at his hands as he clasped them together.

"Fine. Yes, I really was as busy as Rachel always told you. But you're right, I could have made time to come back, and I didn't. I hid behind classes, so I wouldn't have to face you, Jake. Because I was worried that I might not be able to make myself leave again, and I needed to do this, Jacob. For me, and for other kids like us."

A small voice in my head told me that I shouldn't get angry - that it was commendable of him to work as hard as he had in order to reach his goal, whatever that was. I didn't know what he was doing here now, what he wanted. I wasn't sure of anything anymore, except that he had just confessed to having wanted me for fucking years, and he hadn't even given us a chance. He had been away, doing who knows what - or who, even - and I had been here alone and fucking miserable. He'd let me believe that he was straight and taken. I was pissed at him for taking the choice away from me altogether - and I let him know it.

"What the fuck? Do you have any idea what it's been like for me all these years? What I've gone through? I've been alone here, Paul. Alone! If there is another gay guy on this Reservation besides you and me, he's kept his trap shut about it. I've had no one to talk to about this, except Bella and Billy, and it's not like they exactly understand. I've been going around thinking you and my sister were in love because you were always hanging out together, calling each other. Do you have any clue what that's been like? How fucking guilty I've felt these last few years, because I was fucking jealous of my own sister for being with you? How difficult it's been thinking I had to leave because I couldn't stand the thought of having to sit by and watch the two of you be happy when I was in love with you?"

During my ranting, I jumped to my feet and started to pace, my hands gesticulating wildly as I went off on him. As soon as those last words were said, though, I stopped dead in my tracks...frozen. I didn't move a muscle, didn't even blink or breathe, as I realized that I'd said much, much more than I'd wanted to. I was pacing away from Paul, so my back was to him. I couldn't have turned around to face him if I'd wanted to.

The only sound I could hear for the next many heartbeats was that of the crashing waves. I closed my eyes slowly, lowering my head as I heard him get up and move toward me. I couldn't believe I had told him - in a rage, no less - that I was in love with him. Of all the possible ways I might have wanted for him to find out, that was certainly not one of them.

All of a sudden, I felt very sick to my stomach, and I was torn between wanting to just run away now or, well, turn around and kiss the hell out of him. I didn't know what he was going to say or do, so I just waited, unable to make a move, one way or the other.

I wasn't sure what to make of the fact that he hadn't said anything yet, so when I felt his hand slide across the back of my neck, I started. And shivered. The feel of his hand against my bare skin like that made my heart race even faster than it already was. When he stroked his thumb soothingly across the length of my neck, I had to bite back a moan. No one had ever touched me like that before and, as innocuous as it was, it seemed to set my nerves on end.

I could feel his breath wash over me, warm and tantalizing, as he rested his forehead by my ear and whispered, "I'm sorry, Jacob."

At his words, my eyes screwed shut further, my chest tightening as I berated myself for spewing my word-vomit. I felt him move away slightly, his body angling toward mine as he held me in place when I tried to shrug him off and leave. I wasn't sure how much more humiliation I could take.

My brow furrowed - though I refused to open my eyes - when I felt him take my hand and place it over his heart, which was beating frantically. He covered my hand with his and said, "Jake...look at me. Please?"

When I didn't comply, he squeezed the back of my neck lightly, pulling me just a little closer. He breathed, "Please, Jacob..." on a soft sigh.

I clenched my jaw a few times as I fought with myself. I was afraid of what I might see if I opened my eyes.

Afraid that he might reject me.

That he might want me, still.

God, you truly are pathetic, Jacob Black. Just open your fucking eyes and be done!

I opened my eyes slowly, but - in true Jacob fashion - I looked away from him when I did. It was both an act of defiance and one of fear. The low growl coming from Paul vibrated through the hand he still held against his chest as he rumbled, "Goddamnit, Jacob...stop being an ass and just look at me!"

There's some of the old Paul I know and love.

That stray thought snapped me out of it quicker than his words had done, and I finally turned my gaze to him, still feeling obstinate and probably showing it. I was surprised to find a small smile creep on Paul's lips when I did as he asked - and shocked to see the tenderness and caution in his eyes.

He whispered, "Finally..." He gave my hand a light squeeze, raising his voice to a normal level as he continued, "Did you mean that? Were you in love with me, too?"

I blinked and nodded, not daring to open my mouth for fear of spewing more word-vomit. My heart started to beat loudly, at least it seemed that way to me. He was so close to me, touching me. It was just a simple touch, yet so intimate in a way. The way his eyes were boring into mine was so intense I had trouble keeping eye contact. When his fingers began to caress my neck, scratching my scalp ever so lightly, my breath hitched and my body tingled.

He began to brush his thumb back and forth on my hand against his chest, and my fingers twitched as if having a will of their own and needing to touch him, too. He was so close now, I could smell him - earth, musk, coffee, and something I couldn't define but that made me feel dizzy. I realized I was taking short, shallow breaths and struggled to get it back under control again.

"Do you still..?"

It took me a few moments to register the soft spoken words and a couple more to get my voice to work enough to muster a whispered, "Yes." There was no point in denying it, not anymore. I'd already given myself away, so what good would it do?

He smiled then, and I thought I heard him say, "Thank God," but I couldn't be sure because the next thing I knew, he had pressed his lips to mine in a slow and tender kiss. My eyes flew wide open, and I gasped, my brain taking a few seconds to catch up to what was happening to my body before I kissed him back. My fingers grasped his shirt, clutching it as if my life depended on it as he tilted my head slightly, deepening the kiss.

This was what my first kiss should have been. It felt amazing - Paul's lips were soft and supple, but with a forcefulness behind them, and the slight stubble that grazed my lips felt divine.

Far too soon for my liking, I felt him pull away. He rested his forehead against mine with a contented hum even as I let out a shaky breath. His eyes were on mine, and I could see his cheeks lift as he smiled.

He murmured, "I've been wanting to do that for a long, long time..."

I snorted softly, shaking my head to clear it a little. I was feeling so many things all at once that it was difficult to think straight. There was one thing I needed to know...and many more I wanted to know.

My voice was husky, and I almost didn't recognize it as my own. I had never sounded like that before. "Why are you here, Paul?"

He pulled away just far enough to look me in the eye properly. "Because if nothing else, I had to let you know. I never dreamed you might feel the same for me, Jake. I just had to tell you. Even if you had told me that you'd never felt anything for me, or told me to go to hell..." He paused, frowning as if anticipating I would do that anyway, despite having just told him I still had feelings for him. "I know I don't have any right to even think of asking you this, Jacob, but I came back here because a part of me hoped for a chance..."

My eyes searched his, wanting to believe what he said but not trusting myself to. His grandfather was dying, and he was ostensibly here to spend what little time there was left with him. When I pointed that out to him, he sighed heavily.

"You're right; I am. But if that had been my only reason, Jake, I would not have come here looking to settle down. I would have come here, spent his last days with him, and then gone to find my place in the world - except that my place is here, Jake. It's here, because my heart is with you, has always been, even if you never knew it - even if I never showed you that before."
The wind had picked up while we were standing there, and I shivered. I wasn't entirely sure whether it was just due to the weather or because of him - possibly a little of both. He let go of my hand and neck only to slip his arms around my waist and pull me closer. He held me to him as he rested his head on my shoulder.

He pressed his lips against my neck and murmured, "I know we should probably head home since it's getting cold outside, but I don't know if I'm ready to go back just yet."

I wrapped my arms around him as well, holding his body tight. I wasn't ready to let go, either. Part of me was worried that once we got back, none of it would matter. Hell, I was worried that none of this was even happening.

Another part of me just didn't want this moment to end. Being held by him - and holding him in my arms - felt so right. I remembered back when I had tried so hard to feel something more for Bella, and I had held her as I kissed her...it had felt off. I had felt off.

But kissing Paul, holding him...it felt as if my world had righted itself somehow and a missing piece of me had slid into place. One I had longed for for so very long, and one I didn't want to let go - not if there was a chance in hell of being able to keep it.


There was a nagging feeling, something in the back of my mind that persisted. What had he done all those years while he'd been away - while I'd been here, alone? Somehow I doubted that he hadn't made use of the fact that he was in a new place, one that held infinitely more possibilities to explore one's sexuality than La Push ever would. I debated whether I really wanted to know, but in the end, I blurted it out like the idiot that I am.

He stilled completely in my arms. I couldn't even feel him breathe for several seconds before I felt him sigh and pull away to look at me again. His eyes were cautious, and I was instantly alert and bristling.

He told me that he had indeed been with guys while living in Eugene, that he had had a couple of boyfriends but that, in the end, it always came down to the same thing - they weren't me. When I asked him to tell me more, he did, albeit reluctantly.

It hurt - so much - to hear him talk about the guys he had been with, but apparently I had a masochistic streak I hadn't previously been aware of. I needed to know. Then he told me that he hadn't been with anyone for the last year because the closer it got to his return, the more wrong it felt.

He expressed again that he wanted very much to try with me if I would have him. I couldn't answer him, though, and when he began to pull away further with a look of dejection in his eyes, I snapped.

"Paul..." My voice sounded strangled. I tried to say more, but I just could not get my vocal chords to work. I did the only thing I could think of to try to stop him from leaving as he pulled away from me - I grabbed his face in both hands and crashed my lips to his, kissing him for all I was worth. I was begging him without words not to leave me alone again, to love me as I did him.

His response was immediate as he pulled me roughly to him, placing one hand on the small of my back while the other lodged itself in my hair, anchoring me to him. I let go of his face, slipping my arms around his waist. One hand rested just above his ass with the other in between his shoulder blades.

This kiss was not slow or tender. It was raw with hunger and need...and utter perfection. He slipped his knee between my legs, connecting our bodies in every possible way despite the barrier of our clothes.

The feeling of how he was reacting to me, how his body was responding to mine - and mine to his - left me reeling, aching, wanting more. I pulled away from his lips with a whimpered, "Oh, God..."

We were both panting for breath, and I tried to get some semblance of control back over my voice. I looked up to see Paul watching me intently, the smallest of worry lines between his eyebrows as he bit the corner of his lip. When he finally spoke, his voice was so husky and thick that it made me ache even more than I already was.

"Tell me you want me, Jacob. I need to hear you say it..."

I honest-to-God tried to speak, but all I mustered was another whimper. I was beginning to get a little frustrated, wondering just what the hell he was doing to me for my body to betray me this way. He pleaded again. "Please, Jacob. Tell me?"

A low growl escaped my lips, born out of frustration with myself. I lowered my head, nuzzling his neck as I tried again. I smiled when I finally was able to speak, even if it was merely a whisper.

"Yes, Paul. I want you. I want you so fucking much it hurts."

He tightened his hold on me and gave a deep sigh. I shivered again, but this time there was little doubt as to the reason, since the wind was picking up. Paul rubbed my back gently as he kissed my cheek. "We should think about going home. It's getting cold."


Where Billy and Rachel would be waiting.

I groaned, shaking my head stubbornly. I wasn't sure I wanted to face them since, apparently, they had both been aware of how we felt but hadn't clued us in. I also wasn't ready to share this new turn of events with anyone just yet as I was still trying to wrap my own head around it.

We stood like that for a little longer before I finally had to give in. It was simply getting too cold, and my denim jacket was just not cutting it. I let go of him with a sigh as I wondered what they might say. Paul was watching me quietly, but I couldn't quite meet his eyes...and I wasn't even sure why. Not at this point, anyway.

"Hey..." He ran his fingers through my hair, and I looked up at him, unable to help myself. "Are you okay?"

I nodded, absentmindedly scuffing my foot in the sand as I stuck my hands in my back pockets. "Yeah, I'm fine...I just..." I frowned at him, hoping he would understand what I wasn't sure of myself.

Yeah, I know, convoluted, but there you have it.

I growled in frustration with myself and sat down heavily on the driftwood. Paul kneeled down in front of me with a worried expression. The smile I gave him was wan at best as he took one of my hands in his. I entwined our fingers, squeezing his hand lightly. I marveled at being able to touch him so freely now - and I blushed as I realized just how freely that might be.

He waited for me to speak, giving me some time to collect my thoughts. When a minute or so passed without me saying anything, he gave my hand a small shake and smiled softly. "I'm not quite ready to hang out with them, either, but we should at least stop by, say hi to Rach. I know she's missed you a lot..." He chuckled and shook his head. "Just don't tell her I told you; she'd kick my butt."

His eyes twinkled, and his smile turned into a lopsided grin. I rolled my eyes, muttering under my breath, "Yeah, that's my loving sister for you..."

"Mhmm...seriously though, Jake. You need to at least say hello." He paused a moment, his teeth worrying his lower lip, and a frown appeared on his brow again. "Jacob...would you...maybe we..." He huffed in frustration as he stumbled over his words. I tilted my head, trying to figure out what he was trying to say. "Will you go out to dinner with me tonight?"

My eyes widened, and I felt myself sit up a little straighter as I said, "Oh...oh! I mean..." I rolled my eyes at myself, feeling like an absolute idiot, not to mention awkward and naive. I was completely out of my element when it came to the whole dating thing, never having done it before. I wasn't even sure if Paul actually meant dinner to be a date, but the possibility had my heart beating a little faster. And, in true Jake-fashion, I blurted it out.


"Like a date?"

He snickered. "Yes, Jake, like a date. Will you go out with me and have dinner, please?"

His eyes searched mine until I nodded, my voice low when I said, "I'd like that. Where, though?"

He thought about it for a moment before tilting his head and saying, "Port Angeles?"

I grinned. Driving all the way to Port Angeles meant that we would be guaranteed at least an hour and a half alone each way. It also meant that we wouldn't get home again until very late. Both were options I could live with. Hell, I was looking forward to them.

He stood up, still holding onto my hand, and smiled. "C'mon. Let's go face the firing squad."

He winked as I groaned, getting to my feet even though my body suddenly felt like it was made of lead. I had no idea what to expect from Billy or Rachel. Both of them had seemed fine with the fact I was gay, but I'd never actually brought anyone home. How would they react now, when faced with...with what, exactly?

They already knew Paul, obviously. And they both knew he was gay - Rachel, because she had figured it out, and Billy, because he was on the Council, if nothing else. But still, it was one thing to be okay with the concept, quite another to be faced with the cold hard fact of...a boyfriend? Was that what he was now?

Paul had turned around already and begun walking, but I stood there, unable to move as I watched him. He stopped when our arms were pulled taut, and he turned with a frown, stepping back to me with a look of concern and confusion on his face.


I blinked slowly, whispering, "What are they going to say, Paul? How are they going to react to...to this? Us?" I motioned my free hand between us.

He let go of my hand with a soft sigh, frowning slightly as he cupped my face in his hands so I couldn't look away. He spoke tenderly, and I marveled at the patience he seemed to have with me, something he had never exactly been known to have in general.

"I don't know, Jake. But whatever happens, we'll deal with it together, okay?" He pressed his lips to mine briefly, then whispered, "I meant what I said before, Jacob, and if you want me, I don't intend to let you go."

I didn't know what to say to that, so I just nodded, mumbling, "Okay."

He smiled, kissed me briefly again, and then grabbed my hand in his, tugging lightly to get me moving. We walked back to my place in silence, both of us absorbed in our own thoughts, sneaking glances at one another and grinning when the other got caught. He held my hand the entire way there, even though we passed a few of our neighbors. He really was serious about this. I knew there would soon be talk - about him, and about us. I knew he was aware of that, too, and the grin that kept pulling on my lips was firmly in place by the time we made it to the front door.

Paul put his hand on the doorknob, but instead of going straight in, he stopped and looked at me. "You ready for this?"

I cleared my throat, my brow furrowing as I took a deep breath. "Not really, but let's do this anyway."

He grinned, squeezing my hand while he opened the door. Rachel was sitting with her back to us, talking to Billy who had parked himself next to the couch. They both stopped talking and looked over at us, and I could tell Billy was trying hard not to grin - trying, and utterly failing as his lips twitched and his eyes twinkled with...happiness?

I didn't have time to consider what he was thinking as Rachel got to her feet and walked over to us. She stood in front of me with her hands on her hips, her eyes going from our joint hands to each of our faces. Her face was a stoic mask, and I could feel the anxiety ratcheting up again.

That is, right up until she cuffed both Paul and me upside the head simultaneously before pulling us in for a hug and grousing, "About fucking time you two got your heads out of your asses!"

Paul and I hugged her back awkwardly, glancing at each other with wide eyes, though I could see that he was somewhat amused as well. Rachel stepped away again, pointing a finger at me as she rested her other hand on her hip and said, "You - be good to him. You're my brother and I love you, but I will kick your ass if you end up hurting him."

She turned to Paul next, not even giving me a chance to respond. She jabbed her finger at his chest as she said, "And you! You hurt my little brother, Paul Ephraim Foster, and I swear I will...I will..." She sputtered for a moment before narrowing her eyes at him. "I don't know what I'll do, but whatever it is, you won't like it!"

At her last words, Paul threw his head back and howled with laughter before letting go of my hand and sweeping Rachel up in a hug, causing her to squeal and laugh, too. He planted a big kiss on her cheek before putting her back on her feet while I gaped at them. He stepped behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist as he rested his chin on my shoulder. I tilted my head so I could see him, only to find his twinkling eyes locked with Rachel's as he said, "Don't worry, Dolly. I have no intention of incurring your wrath."

He kissed my neck as Rachel chuckled. I felt the blush heat my cheeks even as I half-turned in his arms to look at him with confusion. "Dolly?"

Rachel rolled her eyes and huffed. "This idiot started calling me that when he figured out my name means 'ewe' in Hebrew."

Yeah, I was still fucking lost.

Paul saw the bewildered look on my face and gave a quiet chuckle, his arms tightening around me as he said, "Dolly was the first sheep to be cloned - most famous sheep in the world, actually. Didn't you know that?"

Rachel gave a quiet snort as she shook her head, rolling her eyes at Paul. "Yeah, and this jerk thought he was sooo clever when he learned about Dolly on the Discovery channel one night while you were gone."

I shook my head and muttered under my breath, "Right...okay, then."

Billy wheeled himself over to us, grinning as his eyes twinkled with mischief. He addressed Paul but looked straight at me. "So what are you two standing around here for? Don't you have some catching up to do?" His eyes flickered briefly to Paul before locking back on mine again. "Get out of here, both of you. And Paul? Show him a good time tonight. He deserves it, I think."

I covered my eyes with my hand and groaned, "Thanks, Dad."

I could feel Paul's chest rumble as he tried to hold back his chuckles. He tightened his hold on me, placing another kiss on my neck, but didn't say anything. I peeked through my fingers at Rachel, who had her hand over her mouth even as her shoulders shook with silent laughter, and I could hear Billy's husky chuckles to my right. Meanwhile, I felt mortified and just wanted the earth to swallow me whole.

Rachel spoke up, nudging our father's shoulder as she said, "Real subtle, Dad."

Lowering my hand, I looked at Billy as he said, "Hey, I'm cool. I'm down with the kids."

"Oh, God..."

Paul whispered in my ear, "And I think that would be our cue to get out of here."

I muttered, "Yes, please! I don't know how much more of this I can take."

He chuckled softly as he let me go and reached for my hand. Rachel stepped up to Paul, whispering something in his ear before kissing his cheek. He blushed, nodding at her, and I thought I heard him say, "I will," as she turned to me.

She hugged me tight, murmuring, "Be happy, Jakey. You've sacrificed enough. Live a little, okay?"

I hugged her back fiercely. I didn't think I had ever loved my sister as much as I did in that very moment. Never before had she acknowledged what I'd done in so many words, and the tender tone in her voice let me know she knew, appreciated, and cared. "Thanks, sis."

She grinned as she stepped next to Billy, resting one hand on his wheelchair while she made a shoo'ing motion with the other, telling us to go out and have fun. Right as the door closed behind us, I heard her yell, "Don't worry! We won't be waiting up for you tonight, Jakey!"

I groaned, shaking my head and refusing to look at Paul as we walked to the garage. When we got to the Rabbit, Paul stopped and pulled me into his arms. My own automatically wrapped around him as I rested my forehead on his shoulder. He pressed his lips to my temple and murmured, "Are you alright?"

I huffed, and I felt him sigh deeply. When I still hadn't said anything after a minute or so, he jostled me. "Jake...?"

"Oh, Christ...yeah, Paul, I'm just peachy." I lifted my head, scowling at him. "I just basically got told to get my V-card stamped by both my father and my sister, in front of the guy I've been crushing on since forever. Happens every day, right? So why the hell wouldn't things be just sunshine and roses right now?"

I looked at him, eyes wide and horrorstruck before I hid my face in his neck, muttering under my breath, "Shit. Great job, Jacob. Seriously need to learn when to just shut the fuck up..."

His grip on me tightened as he sucked in a breath of air while I kept up a continuous stream of berating words about my own stupidity. His whispered, "I didn't realize...I thought..." barely registered.

I lifted my head to look at him, sighing in resignation. "You thought what, Paul? I told you that there's not exactly any other guys on the Rez that are out. Who exactly would I have had a chance to fool around with here?"

I really didn't want to go into all of this - it was embarrassing enough already - but I realized that there really was no avoiding it. If it wasn't brought out into the open now, it would if we ever made it that far. Since I already seemed to be on a winning streak in this game of 'Let's Embarrass the Crap out of Jacob Black,' I figured I might as well get it all out there in one fell swoop.

His eyes searched mine for a moment before he shook his head in bewilderment. "I just didn't...you never...? You never went out to a club or hooked up with anyone? I know there's nothing here, but...Seattle's not that far away...or maybe Victoria?"

I huffed, slipping out of his embrace and onto the hood of my car. I put my feet up on the bumper so I could rest my arms on my knees as I stared at the ground. I thought back to the one time I had actually tried that in an effort to get over him and relieve some frustration. And to just get fucking laid. I was a guy, after all. I had the same urges all my friends did, too. It was just a lot harder for me to do anything with them, pun not intended.

Keeping my eyes on the ground, I told Paul about having gone to Victoria and visiting a gay bar, figuring that even I - with zero experience - would stand a chance at hooking up with someone there. And I'd definitely had a chance - several, actually.

But every time some guy had made a pass at me, something had stopped me from going through with it. Several men had danced with me, tried to kiss me, grope me, do God knows what else to me - but I had walked away from it all, unable to see myself with any of them because images of him kept floating through my head. I had felt sick to my stomach after a couple of hours of that shit and headed back home the virgin I had left it.

He stepped in front of me without saying a word and pushed my knees apart so he could stand between them. My arms went around his waist at the same time his wound their way around my shoulders, and I rested my forehead against his stomach with a heavy sigh. He pressed his lips to my hair, murmuring, "I'm so sorry, Jake. I had no idea..."

My breath caught in my throat when I felt him pull away. For one split second, I thought that he was going to walk away - that he wouldn't want anything to do with me after all. Why would he? I had nothing to offer him, no experience to draw from. Why should he waste time on me?

He cradled my head in his hands, forcing me to look up at him, and he smiled when our eyes met. His smile turned into a mischievous grin as he said, "Don't. Don't cut me off or sell me short like that. I know what you're thinking, Jacob. It's written all over your face. There's no shame in being a virgin. In fact..." He leaned in, his lips a hair's breadth from mine as he continued, "I think it's sexy." He kissed me briefly, then spoke again with his lips still so close to mine that I could feel them moving. "I'd be honored if you would share all your firsts with me, Jacob."

His eyes darkened and his voice was husky, sending shivers down my spine at every word. I stared at him for what felt like eternity and mere seconds all at once. The spell was broken when my eyes blinked involuntarily. I barely managed to breathe out, "I think I'd like that..." before his lips came crashing back to mine, his fingers moving to my hair and holding me to him while he pressed his body closer to mine.

I heard Rachel yell out from the house, "Get a room!" Paul broke the kiss with a wavering snicker. He blushed and muttered something under his breath before shaking his head and raising his voice. "Gotta love your sister."

I snorted. "Yeah, something like that."

He ran his fingers through my hair and watched me for a moment, grinning. "Come on. I believe I owe you a date." He stepped back, holding out his hand to me, and I thought I heard him add, "And so much more..." but I wasn't sure, and I wasn't about to ask.

I let him drive, which was unheard of, since I never let anyone behind the wheel of my Rabbit. I didn't trust myself to be able to get us to Port Angeles safely, though, because my emotions were still all over the place. Paul seemed to have a much better handle on his feelings, something that still amazed me. He had changed a lot during the years he'd been away, I realized. He had grown up to be a man in every sense, though the boy I had fallen in love with so long ago was still present in him. I could see him when I looked in his eyes.

I spent most of the drive just watching him as we talked about...everything, it seemed. When I told him about Bella and everything that had taken place between us, he nodded. I noticed his knuckles whitening a little as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel. He said he had suspected a lot and that what I told him confirmed things for him. He apologized again for his lack of courage back then, frowning as he asked me how it had felt when I kissed Bella.

I stared out the window, gathering my thoughts, my teeth worrying my lower lip as I tried to figure out how much to say. I sighed and closed my eyes. "It felt...wrong. It was wrong, for so many reasons. I..." I scrubbed my face in frustration. "I was trying...to be something I'm not - trying to convince myself I could love her as more than just a friend. That I would be better for her than Edward."

I snorted, shaking my head. "That's when she broke her hand. Do you remember? She hit me after I kissed her. Fucking hurt, too..." I rubbed my jaw where she had hit me, as if I could still feel it - and in a way, I could.

He smirked and huffed softly. "Yeah, I remember her walking around with a cast for a while."

I frowned and looked down at my hands, which were folded in my lap. "I think my second kiss should have been my first. It was my first real kiss."

My eyes cut to his, and when I caught him looking at me, I blushed. He grinned, pulling the car to a stop in a parking lot. I hadn't been paying any attention to where we were and had no idea where he was taking me, other than Port Angeles, of course. He turned in his seat after unbuckling and took my hand in his. He leaned over the stick shift, placing his other hand on my knee to keep his balance, and smiled at me, his lips mere inches from mine. "I hope that means you liked it, Jake, because I plan on kissing you well and often."

As if to punctuate his statement, he closed the distance between us and kissed me languidly. I couldn't help the soft moan that escaped me as my lips moved with his, my free hand finding purchase in his hair while the other gripped his hand tighter. Heaven.

He chuckled softly as he pulled away and settled back into his seat. He tilted his head to the building and said with a grin, "Food?"

"Sounds fucking fabulous. I'm starving."

He laughed as he got out of the car. He waited for me and, as soon as I was within reach, he took my hand in his, squeezing it lightly. I felt both nervous and...giddy at the thought of being out in public with...

What are we?

I frowned at him as he held open the door for me to go in before him. He just shrugged. "What?"

I shook my head, unsure whether I wanted to bring up the 'boyfriend' question here and now. His brow furrowed slightly, but he let it be. We were given a booth in the back of the restaurant, and I realized I still didn't know where we were. I picked up the menu as soon as my butt hit the seat and raised my eyebrows in surprise. It was only when I finally looked around me that I noticed the slightly southwestern atmosphere they had created.

I turned to look at Paul with a smirk, cocking my eyebrow as I said, "The Kokopelli? Trying to tell me something, Paul?"

He stared at me, confusion clear on his face. I stifled a chuckle, resting my elbows on the edge of the table as I leaned forward. "I hate to tell you this, sweetheart, but you're barking up the wrong tree if you're hoping for luck in fertility."

His eyes widened as he gaped at me. I continued before he could respond. "Then again, if you're hinting that you're the prankster, then I think I'd rather know now."

He blinked. "Wha-?"

I quirked my brow again. "Don't tell me you don't know what the Kokopelli's known for?"

He glanced down at the menu with a frown, and I heard him mutter a soft "fuck" as it clicked for him. He shook his head, looking back up at me with a wry smile. "You ass..."

I grinned and wiggled my eyebrows at him, causing him to laugh. It felt good somehow, to unsettle him just a little bit. I'd been feeling a little off-balance ever since he interrupted my musings on the beach, as if he was just a few steps ahead of me in almost every regard - which, in truth, he was.

When the waiter came to take our drink order, we both opted for a Coke, and Paul ordered a platter of coconut shrimp to share after checking with me. While we waited for our sodas, we checked out the menu and were ready to place our orders. Paul decided on the Steak Kokopelli, which caused me to chuckle and him to roll his eyes at me as I ordered the bourbon pork tenderloin.

Once that was settled, we sat back and talked for a while until the shrimp was served. My mind kept going back to the boyfriend thing, and I frowned slightly as I popped the first shrimp in my mouth. Paul tilted his head with a worried expression. "Not good?"

"No...it's not that...just..." I sighed, my eyes on the plate as I kept dipping a piece of shrimp into the chutney, trying to collect my thoughts. I bit my lip, feeling really fucking stupid for even thinking about it. Wasn't it much too soon for that shit? I kept my eyes trained on the platter as I - once again - blurted out what was on my mind, or rather, I stuttered it out.

"Paul...are you...am I..?" I growled softly at myself before muttering, "Oh for fuck's sake...I know it's crazy...too soon, but...I was wondering if...if what you said...before. Does that mean you want us to be together...as in boyfriends?"

I felt my cheeks heat up, and I closed my eyes as I mentally berated myself for my stupidity and lack of coherency, not to mention my utter lack of experience in...well, everything. I didn't open my eyes until I felt his hand cover mine and heard him whisper, "Jacob?"

I raised my eyes to his, finding him watching me with questioning, uncertain eyes. He squeezed my hand lightly. "Jake...would you like us to be?"

Part of me wanted to roll my eyes and go, "Duh! Where were you during my rant earlier today? I thought that was pretty fucking obvious." For once, though, I managed to hold my tongue and just nodded instead.

The corner of his lip turned up, and his eyes shone brightly as he said, "Then yes, Jake. If you want me, too, then I would like that very much."

I nodded again, unsure of how to respond - and probably unable to say anything, anyway. Clearing my throat, I grinned, suddenly feeling much better about things.

Who would've thought this morning that I'd end up with a boyfriend...let alone that said boyfriend would be Paul?

He linked our fingers together as he quirked a brow at me, a look of amusement in his eyes, but he didn't say anything. We finished the shrimp off in silence, both of us lost in thought. He never let go of my hand, though, and that grounded me somehow. When he brushed his thumb over my finger, it sent tingles through my body, and I wondered if it was normal to react so strongly to the most innocent of touches, or if it was me...or him.

Either way, I felt my cock come to life in ways it really never had. Sure, I'd fantasized, and I'd taken matters into my own hand often enough, but this? This was different - and more than a little scary. Now that we'd established this...relationship...a whole new realm opened up that I hadn't truly believed would ever be mine. I'd long since accepted the fact that I'd spend my days alone because he'd been unattainable, and I wasn't interested in anyone else.

The waiter brought our food, giving me a reprieve as Paul released my hand and sat back in his seat. His eyes were on me, and he was grinning, but he must have seen something in my expression because the grin faded from his lips, only to be replaced by a look of concern. He waited to speak until after we'd gotten refills on our drinks and then leaned forward, reaching for my hand again. My eyes followed his movement - I was sure he meant for it to be a soothing gesture, but the moment his thumb started rubbing circles on my wrist, I felt it again. A soft gasp escaped my lips, and I looked up to find Paul frowning slightly.


Biting my lip, I tilted my head slightly, my eyes flickering between his face and our hands. I wanted to know if this was normal, but I didn't want to shine another spotlight on the fact that I was so inexperienced. The day had been bad enough for that. When he did it again, though, I couldn't quite hold back my moan.

Fucking ridiculous...

Leveling my gaze with his, I swallowed a few times before finding my voice, even if it wasn't much more than a whisper. "Tell me you feel that, too..."

A look of confusion crossed his face, until I moved my hand to do to him what he'd been doing to me. I could tell the second it clicked for him, both because his eyes darkened and because his confusion melted into a look of comprehension. He nodded. "Yes, I do. Does it bother you?"

I smiled sheepishly, lowering my eyes briefly before finding his again. "Maybe a little? Is it always that...intense?"

He narrowed his eyes a little as he thought on his answer. I continued to run my thumb over his wrist without really thinking about it, the gesture calming me, somehow. He glanced down at our hands for a moment, his teeth worrying his bottom lip. When he looked up at me again, it was with a tentative smile. "Never really has been, before..."

He squeezed my hand, nodding at our plates with a grin tugging at his lips. "How about we eat before the food gets cold?"

I blushed, lowering my head as I began to cut my tenderloin when I felt him tap his foot against mine. Looking up at him through my eyelashes, I saw him smile and mouth, "It's okay..."

I nodded, and we spent the next couple of minutes eating quietly. It was both strange and comfortable at the same time. This wasn't the first time we'd shared a meal together - though granted, it was the first time where it was just us two - but it felt like we'd done this forever. In a manner of speaking, at least. It was...weird. I couldn't place it, couldn't put my finger on just what it was about being here like this with Paul that was so different.

I think I could get used to this, though...

The idea of the two of us together still marveled me, but damn if it didn't put a smile on my face. When I looked up, he was smiling, too. I ducked my head as thoughts of getting to know Paul better - in every sense - started creeping into my mind. It was almost as if he sensed where my mind had gone because the next thing I knew I felt his foot brush against my calf.

I nearly choked on the mouthful of mashed potato I'd just taken. Paul was out of his seat and kneeling next to me in an instant, rubbing between my shoulder blades as I coughed and sputtered. He handed me a glass of water with concern - and embarrassment - clear on his face.

In between coughs and sharp inhales of breath, I choked out, "Oh, Christ..." My face was flushed, and in that moment, I simply wanted the floor to swallow me whole. The waiter stopped by to see if I was alright, and both Paul and I waved him off, Paul politely thanking him as he did. When I finally managed to get my breathing under control, I turned my head away from Paul and muttered, "Some date I'm turning out to be...real catch, that Jacob Black."

Paul moved his hand up my back so that it rested on my neck. He squeezed it lightly and whispered, "Please don't say that, Jake. It was my fault...I shouldn't have done that..."

I snorted, and after a second's pause, he added, "Well, at least not right at that moment, I shouldn't have. I'm sorry for startling you, Jake. Are you okay?"

Slumping back in my seat, I sighed and looked at him. He seemed genuinely concerned about me, which helped ease some of the embarrassment I was feeling. Rolling my eyes, I ran my fingers through my hair and said, "Mortified beyond belief, but otherwise, peachy."

Paul rested his forehead against my arm, and I couldn't resist the urge to touch him, so I cradled his jaw, my thumb brushing his cheek. He sighed, pressed his lips to my arm and looked up at me. He scratched my scalp lightly, causing me to hum and close my eyes - and him to chuckle. He said, "How about we finish dinner, Jake, if you're sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, Paul. Don't worry about me."

He took my hand from his cheek, squeezing it lightly as he got to his feet again. His grin turned wicked as he said, "Good, because I was hoping to have you around for a while yet. I've got plans for you, Jacob."

The way his voice lowered and his eyes flashed had me squirming in my seat, even as he feigned innocence and began eating again. The bastard knew he was affecting me and how little it would take to get me worked up.

For the remainder of our meal, we kept talk to a lighter level and our hands and feet to ourselves in order to avoid any further incidents. I asked him more about college, what his classes had been like, his volunteer work. The more he told me, the more I realized how much he'd really grown during his time in Eugene. I felt proud of him for working with a group he met through PFLAG and the local schools to create a special shelter for kids who were either kicked out after they came out or felt like they were not safe at home.

"You done eating, Jacob?"

"Huh?" Rolling my eyes at being my usual articulate self, I was surprised to find that we'd both stopped eating awhile ago and had just been talking. "Oh...yeah, thanks."

He nodded, grinning as he tried to get the attention of our waiter. When I made to grab my wallet, Paul insisted on paying the bill and said, "Jake, this is a date, remember? I asked you out, I pay... That's how it works, baby."

My first response was to scowl at him, which made him wink at me, but when I thought about it, I realized that this was only our first date...one of hopefully more to come. I seriously doubted that he'd be able to get away with being the one to pick up the tab each and every time. He quirked an eyebrow in question as I felt myself grin at my resolve to be the one to ask him out, next time.

Shrugging, I got out of my seat. Paul followed as soon as he had finished putting the bills in the folder. He walked a step behind me, almost but not quite touching me, and I could feel the heat radiating off his body. When we got to the car, I automatically went to the driver's side. When I reached into my pocket for my keys, I realized Paul still had them.

I turned around, intending to ask him for them, but before I could open my mouth to do so, he had me pinned to the side of my car, his lips on mine in a way that made me close my eyes and forget whatever I had been about to say. He pressed closer to me as my hands clutched at the fabric of his jacket. The moan that escaped me as I felt him hard and warm against me took me by surprise, but I couldn't find it in me to be embarrassed about it. All I knew was that I didn't want to go home yet...and that I wanted more.

When he pulled away, I whimpered, even as his lips found their way along my jaw to my ear. I shivered when he whispered, "Jake...I don't want this day to end. Tell me you don't want to go home..."

He kissed, licked, and nipped all along my neck as I tried to form a coherent thought. I tilted my head to the side to give him more access, which he made full use of. His hands move from my hips all over my body, caressing and arousing me. Soon I was panting, pulling him closer to me and feeling like I was going to lose my mind if we didn't do something - even though I tried not to think about what, exactly, that something would be.

I grabbed his hair, pulled his face to mine again, and crashed my lips to his in a searing kiss. The need I felt for him was as overwhelming as it was empowering - empowering, because I could tell that his need equaled my own. My voice was strangled when I broke away far enough to say, "Please, Paul..."

His eyes were blazing as he searched mine. My fingers flexed, relinquishing the hold they had on his hair in order to trace his face. I whispered again, "Please..."

He swallowed a few times before finding his voice, which had gotten huskier. I idly noted that he sounded sexy and that I wanted to hear him like this again when he said, "Please, what, Jacob? Stop? Take you home?"

I shook my head, not sure what our options were at this point, but knowing that going back to my place wasn't what I wanted. Just the thought of having to face Billy and Rachel tonight was enough to bring me down to earth again. Putting my forehead against his, I sighed. "I don't want to go home."

Paul took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. I could just make out the fact that he was smiling as he lowered his face. "Would it be too forward of me to ask you to go to a hotel for the night? I don't want to go back yet, either..."

His words sent a thrill through me, and I gasped in spite of myself. The thought of being with him was exhilarating and frightening beyond belief all at once. I closed my eyes as his opened, nodding slightly.

Get a grip, Jacob.

I wanted him. Everything in me was telling me to just go with it, to finally fulfill my desires, my fantasies. I wanted to tell him that I'd love nothing more than to spend the night with him. Hell, I'd wanted everything with him for so long...

When I still hadn't said anything after a minute or so, he said, "We don't have to do anything, Jacob. I'm just not ready to let you go yet now that I finally have you here." With that last word, he wrapped his arms around me tightly.

I pulled my head back far enough to be able to look at him, needing to see his reaction. "Paul..."

He looked at me questioningly, uncertainty flickering in his eyes. I pressed my lips to his briefly, hoping to reassure him even as I marveled at the fact that I was trying to soothe him, when he was the one with experience. "I've been ready for years, so would you please shut up and take me to a hotel already?"

Where my bravado came from, I had no idea, because despite what I had just told him, I was nervous as hell. Whatever happened tonight, it was going to be a first for me, and I had the feeling there might be many of them - at least, I hoped there would be.

Paul looked slightly taken aback at first before his face broke out into a grin. His hands went back to my hips, gripping them tightly as his eyes searched mine. He whispered, "Are you sure, Jake?"

I rolled my eyes, grinning wryly as I said, "Fuck, Paul, I know you can be dense sometimes, but you've seriously got to stop asking that." I put my hands on the swell of his ass, pulling him hard against me as I said, "See how sure I am?"

My heart was beating a mile a minute, and I hoped he couldn't tell just how nervous I really felt. I wanted to finally, finally, know what it was like to be with someone - to make love, or as Quil had once put it, to get fucked senseless. I wanted for Paul to show me everything it meant to really be with someone, and I really didn't want to wait any more.

He groaned, his forehead resting against mine again as he closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then said, "Jesus, Jacob...you have no idea, do you?"

"About what?"

His eyes bore into mine with a intensity that had me weak at the knees. Good God, how is that even possible?

He licked his lips slowly and said, "What you're doing to me...what you've always done to me? That I have to keep reminding myself to take things slow and easy instead of doing what I want to do to you? With you?"

I moaned, closing my eyes briefly to give myself a moment to collect my thoughts. Part of me wanted to hear him say it, for him to tell me exactly what he'd like to do. More than that, though, I wanted him to show me. When I opened my eyes again, he was still gazing intensely at me, and I whispered, "Stop talking, Paul, and show me. Please...I'm not sixteen anymore."

He swallowed a couple of times and said, "I know, but..."

I growled softly, "But, nothing, Paul." My eyes searched his as I added in a whisper, "I want this. You."

He nodded, smiling as he kissed me again - languidly, but with that undercurrent of need from before. When he pulled away, he said, "I want you, too." He blushed as he added, "Come on. I...know a place, but we need to stop somewhere first."

I got in the car and let him drive again because I was sure as hell not going to be able to keep my mind on the road at that point. I had no idea where we were going, or where we'd need to stop or why, but I wasn't about to ask or protest either.

My attention was split between the scenery as we drove out of Port Angeles toward Sequim and Paul, who seemed to be almost as nervous as I had been up until now. His hands flexed continuously as he drove, and I could see him swallow more often than normal, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down in a strangely mesmerizing way.

He pulled into the parking lot of a mini-mart and turned the engine off. He leaned over, kissed me briefly, and murmured, "I'll be right back."

Nodding in confusion, I wondered what was going on with him as I watched him go inside. I blushed when I saw the clerk grinning at me and wondered if she'd seen Paul kiss me. I rested my head against the back of my seat as I thought about what might be happening tonight. My eyes were trained on the front of the store, and I could see the clerk as she helped a couple of customers. When I saw Paul at the register, she looked out the window again - right at me - and I suddenly realized just what he had gone in there for.

"Oh God..." I groaned, scooting down as far as I could go and wishing I could just vanish into thin air.

Paul got back in the car not long after, placing a plastic bag on the backseat. I couldn't look at him, but he didn't say anything as he started the car and drove for a few minutes. He pulled off of the road and put the car in park after a while and then turned to look at me. His hand was on my knee, his thumb rubbing soothing circles on it as he spoke softly. "I'm sorry..."

I shook my head, sighing as I shifted in my seat so I could see his face. "Don't be..." I nodded toward the bag and added, "That's the kind of stuff most guys deal with at some point. I've just never had a reason to before..."

He gave me a crooked smile and nodded. "I suppose...still..."

Shaking my head again, I said, "Don't worry about it. Where are we going?"

I was hoping to take his mind off of my embarrassment, and it sort of worked...except that now it seemed like he was embarrassed. He blushed, cleared his throat, and frowned before turning his head to look out at the road. He mumbled something I couldn't quite catch.

"Paul? Everything okay?"

"Yeah, sorry..." He shook his head, adding, "It's not too much farther, actually. We should get going before..."

He shook his head as he shifted back in his seat and started driving again. I wondered what he'd been about to say, but the frown of concentration on his face made me decide not to question him.

Before too long, we passed a sign that said Juan de Luca Cottages, and I quirked a brow in question at him. He didn't say anything until he'd parked in front of what looked to be the office. As soon as the engine was off, he turned to me, his eyes flickering between mine as he nervously ran his fingers through his hair. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before any sound came out. "Umm, yeah...Jake...please..." He closed his eyes, scrubbing his face with his hands, and then tried again, his gaze level with mine. "Please don't freak out...but...oh, God..."

I frowned, not liking the way this was going. I was getting a bad feeling in my stomach, and I automatically shifted in my seat so that my back was against the door with my arms folded over my chest. "Just spit it out, Paul."

He tugged at his hair and huffed. "Fine, okay...Your sister kinda booked a room for us here as a graduation present. I never thought... I-I didn't know you felt the same about me, Jacob, I swear. I never believed you'd ever want to be with me. I told her I wouldn't be using it, but when you said you didn't want to go home either..." He sighed, looking at me imploringly. "I just didn't want you to have the wrong idea."

All I could do was gape at him as I tried to wrap my mind around what he had just said. Rachel got us a room? She planned for all of this? Oh, God...

"Jake?" His voice was so quiet, I could barely hear him - or perhaps that was because it was being drowned out by the sound of my blood thrumming in my ears. I couldn't find my voice as I looked at him, the furrow on his brow deepening as he started babbling, "Jake, I promise, nothing has to happen tonight. We can just talk, and then go home in the morning, if that's what you want. Just...just, please Jacob..."

I could only nod in silence, but it seemed good enough for him. He took a shuddering breath and asked if I wanted to come with him to get the keys or stay in the car. I told him to go ahead, needing a minute to myself. He squeezed my thigh once and got out of the car.

The moment the door closed behind him, I shut my eyes and banged my head against my seat a few times. I couldn't believe the way Rachel had planned for us to stay here - that she'd been so sure this would happen. Not to mention that she'd basically handed me on a silver platter to Paul, and in essence invited him to "pop my cherry" for me, as she had once jokingly said should happen sooner, rather than later. And now...

The sound of the car door opening startled me from my thoughts. Paul slid back into the car with a puzzled expression, started the engine, and drove off to where we'd be staying the night. Once he'd found our destination, he got out and walked over to me as I stepped out of the car. He still looked a little hesitant and appeared to be trying to work something out in his mind.

We stood awkwardly for a moment until I just couldn't take it anymore. I was overwhelmed, still horny, and still trying to believe Paul meant what he said. As confusing as things were in that moment, I needed his arms around me, the reassurance I had felt when he'd held me earlier. Stepping up to him, I wrapped my arms around him and rested my head on his shoulder, sighing in relief when I felt him slip his arms around my waist. This was real, this I could handle. This was what I needed right then, and I thought maybe he did, too - that he was just as embarrassed at Rachel having done this as I was.

He murmured, "You okay?"

I gave a quiet snort, earning a soft chuckle from Paul before he said, "Yeah, yeah...stupid question."

"Mhmm, you could say that." I slipped out of his embrace and grinned, feeling a little better know that I knew he was embarrassed, too, and that he was trying to put my needs first - to reassure me. I felt some of my boldness return and said, "Let's go inside. Would be a shame to waste a perfectly good cabin by standing around outside all night and being idiots when we can be warm and comfortable inside."

His eyes narrowed briefly as they searched mine, and then his grin spread over his lips again. He nodded and took a step to the front door before turning on his heel and going back to the car. I watched, puzzled, as he opened the passenger side door and reached into the back, only to reemerge with the plastic bag. My cheeks burned again, but he chuckled and said, "Relax, Jake; those weren't the only things I bought. I got us something to drink, too. I meant what I said. Nothing has to happen if you don't want it to."

I sighed in relief, and as he walked past me, he kissed me quickly on the lips. When he opened the door, he stepped back to allow me to go in first. I rolled my eyes at him but walked inside. It was relatively dark, so I couldn't see much, and then suddenly it was too bright. Paul had flicked the light switch, leaving me blinking to clear my eyes.

Once they adjusted, I scanned the room, blushing when I saw the bed. When I got to the half-kitchen, I frowned at the bottle of champagne sitting on the counter in a bucket of melting ice, an envelope propped up against it. I turned to look at Paul, but he looked just as confused as I felt, shrugging when he met my gaze.

He walked up to the counter and picked up the envelope, opened it, and scanned the card. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped, a soft groan escaping him as he said, "I can't believe it..."

I was by his side in an instant, reading over his shoulder.

Dear Jake and Paul,

If you've made it this far, then I think you could use some of the good stuff. Enjoy the bubbly!

I glanced at Paul, who had closed his eyes with a look of disbelief, pain, and something else I couldn't identify on his face. He muttered, "Keep reading..." So I did.

Guys, you both have made so many sacrifices over the years, and we know that things haven't always been easy for either of you. So your families have gone in on this gift to you. This cabin is yours - not just for the night, but for four days. You both deserve a break, so please accept this gift from those who love you.

Take this time to get to know each other. You both deserve every happiness.

Much love,

(and Rebecca, Billy, and Grandpa)

I read the card several times before it sunk in that everyone had worked on this. They all knew about Paul and me, and if we did have sex, they'd all have had a hand in that. I wasn't sure how I felt about that...and from the look of things, neither was Paul, as he'd gone slightly pale. I took the card from his hands, intending to put it down, but when he let go, I noticed a scribble in the bottom right hand corner that simply read: P.T.O. -

P.T.O? What the hell?

Flipping the card over, I saw another message from Rachel that read:

Jake, I packed you a bag. It's in the trunk. Paul's, too. No excuses! You need this. Love, R.

I snorted, shaking my head as I muttered, "Unbelievable..."

Paul looked at me with confusion and said, "What? What else did that sister of yours scheme up?"

I showed him the back of the card, took the keys from him, and went to grab the luggage, figuring I might as well do it now because I sure as hell wasn't certain what would happen later. By the time I got back, Paul was sitting on the love seat, the card lying in front of him on the trunk that doubled as a coffee table. He was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his head hidden in his hands. I could hear him muttering under his breath, but he stopped when he heard me put the bags down at the foot of the bed.

He didn't move, though, so I sat down on the trunk with my legs spread to either side of his as I took his hands and pried them away from his face. He sighed but refused to look up at me. "Paul..?"

I could see his brow furrow as he tilted his head slightly, muttering something again. I was relatively certain what he was having trouble with, and I tried to figure out how best to deal with it.

Running my fingers through his hair, I closed my eyes briefly, allowing myself a moment to marvel at the fact we were here and I was able to touch him this way. It might have been silly, but to me, it felt like a big deal. Sighing softly, I opened my eyes only to find that he hadn't moved at all. I cradled his face in my hands, slowly lifting it up until his gaze was level with mine. Leaning in, I placed a soft kiss on his lips and sat back with a grin as I said, "Welcome to my world, my friend, where meddling sisters abound."

Paul blinked a couple of times, his mouth slightly open as he processed my words. I tried to keep my grin in place, to keep a semblance of self-assurance around me, but it didn't quite work. Biting my lip, I hoped he understood what I was trying to say - that if we were going to be together, then my family would essentially be his, too. He and Rachel might have been best friends before now, but us being together changed things a little - and I wanted it to.

After a minute or so, as his eyes searched mine, I noticed the corner of his lips twitch as if to fight off a smile. It wasn't long before he couldn't hold back, though, and he started laughing with a look of relief as he grabbed my face with both hands and crashed his lips to mine.

A moan escaped me as he tried to pull away from the kiss. I followed him, not wanting to break the connection between us. My hands went to his hair, holding him to me as I climbed onto his lap. His arms snaked around my waist, and I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be in that moment - though there were a few things I could still think of that I'd rather be doing. I just wasn't sure how to get there.

Paul tightened his arms around me, making me arch into him, and we both broke away and moaned at the sudden contact. A heartbeat later, I rolled my hips into him again, carefully, hesitantly, purposely. Paul inhaled sharply, his eyes burning into mine as he bucked his hips in silent answer to my questioning movements.

Seeing his reactions - feeling him - emboldened me. I sat up just far enough so that I could slip my hands under his shirt, bunching it up as I moved to let my fingers explore the expanse of his chest. He let go of me and raised his arms over his head, allowing me to pull his shirt off completely and giving me my first sight of his bare chest. Well, the first sight of it where it was okay for me to watch, to feel, to explore.

He stilled completely, his hands resting on my hips as his eyes stayed on my face while mine wandered freely over his body, my fingers tracing every inch of his skin. When I looked back up at him, he grinned, his eyes darkening as he said, "My turn," and mimicked my actions. I moaned softly as his fingers found my bare skin, exposing more and more of it as he slowly pulled my shirt up and finally over my head.

I bit my lip as his eyes seemed to devour me, his hands caressing me - tantalizing me beyond measure. I whimpered softly, closing my eyes as my head lolled forward. He slowly, so slowly, trailed his fingers down my chest - pausing only long enough to tease my nipples, which were much more sensitive than I had thought. Down he went, tracing the muscles of my abdomen before slipping under my waistband, though he made no move to undo my pants.

When I looked up in confusion, I found him watching me closely with a silent question in his burning eyes. I was caught, unable to turn my gaze away from his. I swallowed hard, nodding my consent once before I felt him undo my buckle and lower my zipper. I gasped when I felt him pop the button of my jeans, my throbbing cock getting harder in anticipation. I didn't think I'd ever been this worked up before in my life.

He reached down, wrapping his fingers lightly around my shaft, stroking it a few times and making me shudder. With his left hand, he brought my face to his and kissed me, his tongue tracing my lips teasingly several times before mine finally sought out his. He tightened his grip on my cock, causing me to moan and roll my hips, searching for more. When his thumb brushed over my head, I whimpered and had to pull away. "Oh, Jesus..."

I looked down at what he was doing, and for the briefest moment I almost wanted to cry because this was really happening...a hand other than my own was bringing me to the brink, and that hand belonged to Paul. It was almost too much. When I saw him brush over my slit again with his thumb and then followed the movement up to his lips as he took his thumb in his mouth, slowly licking it clean, I was so enthralled I didn't even realize that he'd stopped touching me.

His eyes were trained on mine when he said, "Mmm, Jake, you taste better than I thought. I need more, though... may I?"

It took me a moment to realize just what, exactly, he was asking - not because I didn't know what he meant, but because the words seemed slow to penetrate my hazed mind. Once they did, though, the thought of his lips around my cock wouldn't leave, and I wanted nothing more. I barely managed to croak out a, "God...please," before I leaned in and kissed him hungrily. His taste was slightly different, and it hit me that it was me I was tasting - barely there, but still.

Paul broke away from our kiss, patting my ass lightly as he said, "Get up, baby."

His voice was husky and sexy as hell. I stood up, and he followed, an almost predatory look in his eyes as he guided us toward the bed. When my knees hit the mattress, he steadied me before running his hands over my chest and down my abs. He hooked his thumbs into my belt loops and slowly pulled my jeans down. His eyes were on mine the whole time, and the look of desire in them nearly took my breath away. Once I'd stepped out of my pants, he quickly removed my socks and then ran his hands up my legs before urging me to sit on the edge of the bed.

Paul quickly shed the rest of his clothing, kicking everything to the side and out of the way before kneeling in front of me. I barely had the chance to take him in as he leaned in to kiss me again. His hands were running up and down my thighs, his thumbs brushing closer and closer to my crotch with every pass but never getting there beyond a feathery, teasing touch. I whimpered softly, just needing him to touch me already - to feel him. He hummed as he broke our kiss, only for his lips to travel along my neck, down my chest where he paused just long enough to take each nipple in his mouth in turn, nibbling and flicking his tongue over them.

I sat back slightly, leaning on my arms as I hung my head, panting and moaning and begging for more. I already felt like I was burning, my senses lit up, my body trembling with need...and we hadn't even really done anything yet. He'd barely begun to touch me. I vaguely wondered if it was just me because I had never done anything before...or if it was being with him. Those thoughts were quickly pushed to the side when he pursed his lips and blew against the tip of my cock. I shivered, both from the sensation and from anticipation.

"Paul, plea-" I gasped, my hips jerking up of their own accord as soon as the flat of his tongue ran from base to tip along my shaft. I thought I heard him chuckle, but before I could make any remark on it, his lips were wrapped around the head, and all thoughts left my mind. The only thing that existed was the wet warmth of Paul's mouth as he slowly took me in - gaining and retreating inch by inch until his nose was buried in my pubes and the head of my cock was trapped in the confines of his throat.

My mouth hung open as I took shallow breaths, mesmerized by the sight before me as Paul repeated his movement, and I cursed loudly when he swallowed around me. In all my life, I had never known it could feel this good, had never understood why Embry and Quil had talked about the girls going down on them and boasted about their skills. I was certain, however, that they had nothing on this...this heaven.

Much too quickly, I felt my balls begin to tighten. I bit my lip in concentration, trying to stave off my impending orgasm for just a little while longer. My fingers tangled in Paul's hair, I tried to get his attention, to warn him I was about to come so he could back off. The guys had always complained that their girls never swallowed or even let them come in their mouths, so I didn't think Paul would be any different.

"P-Paul...so close...I d-don't..." He ignored me, instead taking me all the way again. After he swallowed twice, I couldn't hold back anymore and came with a strangled cry. I flopped back onto the bed, my arm over my eyes as I tried to catch my breath. All the while, Paul continued to suck gently, licking me clean before he finally let me go, placing a tender kiss on each thigh as he got up and crawled next to me.

He rested the palm of his hand in the middle of my chest as he curled himself around me, his face nuzzling my neck while I pulled myself together again. Once my heart rate had returned somewhat to normal, I lifted my arm and placed my hand over his. My voice sounded slightly off, not at all like I was used to hearing myself, as I said, "That..." I paused and Paul lifted his head so he could see me. I tried again, "That was amazing...thank you. Come here, please..."

He grinned, kissed me chastely, and murmured, "You're welcome...any time."

I snorted and threaded my fingers in his hair, pulling his face closer as I said, "I'm going to hold you to that...now come here..."

He kept his lips closed as we kissed, not opening until I made a noise of malcontent and pushed my tongue against them. I groaned softly once the combined taste that made up Paul and the residual flavor of my essence hit my tongue.

We lay like that for a while, simply kissing, our hands roaming over what skin we could find, and it felt like utter bliss. He shifted, pressing closer to me even as he wrapped his arm around my side and pulled me to him. The movement caused our cocks to brush together, and the sensation made me moan - more so because he was hard and warm and slick with what I realized was precum as I looked down.

I raised my eyes to his even as my hand traveled down, my fingers wrapping tentatively around his shaft. His eyelids fluttered closed at my touch, his bottom lip disappearing between his teeth, and I could tell he was struggling to keep still. When I started to stroke him, his forehead dropped against mine, and he croaked out, "Jake..."

My heart started to beat frantically as I thought about what I wanted to say, both excited and a little scared at the prospect of Paul making love to me. He felt so big in my hands, and I wasn't sure how it'd work - how it could possibly feel good if something like that had to somehow fit there.

While I stroked him in a slow rhythm - trying to figure out what he liked, what made him moan just like that, or hiss when I twisted my wrist just so - Paul kissed and nipped his way along my neck and down my shoulder. He was murmuring words of encouragement, of love, promises of what would come. All of it combined to make me push past my fears and just want.

I let my fingers trail further down, cupping his balls and rolling them gently between my fingers as I marveled at the feel of them. I whispered, "So soft..."

Paul's throaty chuckle broke me out of my reverie, and I blushed when I realized I'd actually said it out loud. He placed his hand on my cheek as his eyes burned into mine. My own hand stilled as I gazed at him, unable to look away. His lip twitched into a half-smile, and his voice was so full of longing it was palpable as he said, "Jacob...I want you...want to make love to you."

My breathing hitched at his words, and I blurted out without thinking, "Fuck me..."

He chuckled again, quirking an eyebrow in amusement, and said, "Well, I had something a little sweeter in mind, but if you'd rather be fucked instead, I'm good with that, too."

For a moment, all I could do was gape at him. When I came to my senses, though, I smacked his ass and said, "Who said anything about you being the one to do that, huh? Maybe I'd prefer to be the one to...top, is what they call it, right?"

Paul's half-smile turned into a full blown grin as he raised himself up on his elbow and looked at me. He pushed me on my back again, his hand moving to cup my dick, which was stirring back to life again. He dipped his head and whispered in my ear, "I don't care who does what, baby. I enjoy both sides of that particular coin. It's just that I'm already aching, and I don't really want to wait for you to be fully up again."

He lifted his head then, his uncertain eyes intent on mine as his hand moved up to cradle my jaw. "Unless you don't want to bottom...I won't make you, Jake, I just..."

He swallowed, his brow furrowing as he tried to assess my reaction. I rolled my eyes, craning my neck so I could kiss him hard, my fingers tangling in his hair to hold him to me. I broke the kiss, only pulling away far enough to whisper, "Paul, would you shut up and get on with it already? I want you, too. I want to do all of it with you. Teach me."

Before he could answer, my lips were on his again, and he whimpered. His kiss was forceful, demanding, consuming - it made me forget everything but him. When he finally pulled away, I felt dazed and breathless as I grinned lazily up at him. His eyes bore into mine again as he whispered, "Are you sure, Ja-"

I narrowed my eyes and smacked him hard on his ass, causing him to yelp as I growled at him, "Paul Ephraim Foster! I swear to God, if you ask me that question one more time!"

His eyes had widened and his cheeks were flushed as he rubbed the place where I'd slapped him. He muttered, "Okay, okay..." Then I thought I heard him say, "Goddamn..." as he shook his head.

Dipping his head, he kissed me briefly before speaking against my lips. "Sorry, I just don't want you to feel pressured to do anything. As much as I want you, I love you more. I can wait, if that's what you need."

I sighed, brushing his cheek. "I appreciate that, Paul. I do. But trust me when I tell you that I want this...maybe even more than you do."

He thought about that for a moment and then nodded. He, at least, knew what it was like - knew what he would be waiting for - whereas I was desperate to finally know what it was like to...well, to have sex. I was tired of waiting - I felt as if I'd been waiting my whole life. Yes, I was scared, too, but more than that, I wanted. Period.

He ran his hand down my side, kissing me lightly on the lips before telling me to scoot up to the middle of the bed. While I did as he said, he got up and walked across to the kitchenette, rummaged in the plastic bag he'd brought in, and walked back to the bed with a travel-sized bottle of lube and a pack of condoms in hand. Placing the items by my side, he crawled up to me and hovered over me, just watching me with hunger in his eyes.

When his eyes reached mine, he smirked and bit his lip, humming in apparent delight. "Beautiful," he murmured.

I snorted and rolled my eyes. "I was sure it was your ass I hit earlier, not your head."

He didn't answer as he lowered his body onto mine completely, and I moaned when I felt his hard-on press against my own.

Jesus, that feels good...

My hands went to grab his ass, pulling him closer even as I lifted my hips up, seeking friction. He began to roll his hips slowly, his lips searing mine with a heated kiss. Feeling his skin against mine, every point of contact, each movement of flesh against flesh - it was divine, and it left me craving more. I briefly wondered if, now that I was getting a taste of being with Paul, I'd ever be able to get enough of him.

I prayed I'd never have to find out the answer to that.

Paul continued to move against me, his lips finding their way from mine and moving along my jaw to my ear. I tilted my head to the side, moaning softly. He bit my earlobe gently, making me jerk slightly. He whispered huskily, "You feel so good against me, Jake...but I promise it'll feel even better soon. It'll hurt for a little while...I'm sorry...I'll make it worth it, baby...I swear..."

He kept up a steady stream of assurances, promises, and even some dirty talk, that - mixed with what we were doing - had me writhing under him and begging him to get on with it. I didn't want words or fantasies anymore; I wanted the real deal.


He slid down my body, his lips and tongue and hands not leaving an inch of me untouched as they made their way down until he was settled between my knees, his face hovering right above my once again aching cock. I was too far gone to be embarrassed or concerned about being this worked up so soon, as if nothing had happened just a little while ago.

I barely caught his whispered, "Try to relax, baby," before his lips enveloped my hard-on again. He moved slower this time, paying more attention to the head as he sucked and licked and teased. He was driving me crazy, past the point of recognizing anything, so when I felt his slick finger begin to rub and tease my entrance, I tensed. He released me briefly to repeat his earlier advice and quickly took me back in his mouth again, taking me deep at the same time that he pressed into me.

The hiss that escaped my lips soon turned into a deep moan as he continued to work me over. It felt strange, but his deft fingers - he'd added another as soon as I'd relaxed enough - had quickly found a spot that set all my senses reeling. My hands were gripping the sheets beneath me when he pushed in a third, and I whimpered, my head tossing from side to side as I was caught somewhere between pleasure and pain.

It already felt as if he was stretching me more than my body could handle, and I was starting to panic again, though I tried my best to hide it. Paul shifted, leaning forward as he kept pumping his fingers in and out of me, and kissed me tenderly. He whispered, "Are you ready for this, Jake?"

Not trusting my voice, I nodded. When he removed his fingers, I let out a shaky breath and watched as he tore open the packet and rolled the condom onto his length. I had to admit, seeing him touch himself like that as he made sure he was well lubricated...it was sexy as hell. He looked up at me with a sly grin and winked, but said nothing.

When he was done, he crawled back over me and rested his weight on his left arm, his right going between us to guide him into me. I could feel the head of his cock against my entrance as Paul murmured against my lips, "I love you, Jacob Michael."

He kissed me, and then I felt him push slowly forward. I gasped into his mouth at the sudden burn, clenching my eyes shut as he entered me inch by agonizing inch. If I'd thought three fingers were stretching me to capacity, the burn I felt now proved that wrong. My hands clamped down on his upper arms, my fingers digging into his skin as I tilted my head back, muttering, "Fuck..."

Paul froze, only partially sheathed as his concerned eyes watched my face closely. "Jake, I'm sorry. We can stop if..."

I shook my head. His voice was strained, and I could tell it took everything he had to keep still, to stay in control and not let go. I took a couple of shallow breaths before I was finally able to look at him. My own voice was tinged with a similar strain as his when I spoke.

"Please tell me this starts to actually feel good at some point."

He let out a shaky laugh, kissing my lips briefly before promising it'd feel great soon. I ground out, "It'd better..." making him laugh again and shake his head. He waited for another beat, then slowly began to rock his hips back and forth, each pass taking him in a little further.

Once he'd gotten all the way in, he kissed me again, smiling against my lips when my fingers relaxed their grip on him. After a few passes, he asked if I was okay, and I was surprised to find that I could honestly say I was. The burn had dulled, and the friction was actually beginning to feel...good. He grinned and pulled out, but before I could complain or say anything, he took my legs and lifted them up to rest against his shoulders.

I frowned at him in confusion, but all he said was, "Trust me," while giving me a crooked grin and entering me again. The change in angle allowed him to go deeper than before - I could feel it - but what had my eyes widen and a deep, throaty moan escape me was his hitting that spot he'd found before. Not just once, but with almost every thrust.

"Oh, God..."

Forget what anyone had ever told me about sex before in my life. No one could have known how this would feel. It wasn't possible - at least, considering that the only people who had ever discussed sex with me were Quil and Embry, whether I wanted them to or not. I knew from what they'd shared that they had never done this before. And as Paul began to thrust harder, faster, more erratic, I was certain I couldn't think of anything that could feel this good.

I was vaguely aware of Paul talking, muttering words I was sure were meant to turn me on more than I was, but nothing seemed able to get through to me. All I was able to do was feel, drown in every sensation he was giving me as he spurred me toward bliss a second time. I could feel it building, gaining momentum, and when I felt him wrap his fingers around my cock and begin to pump it in time with his thrusts, I cried out.

My own hands had grasped the sheets, which I was twisting between my fingers without being able to control it. Paul stilled suddenly, his head turning to the side as his teeth clamped down on my calf. He took a shuddering breath and then started to pump me with renewed vigor as his hips slowed their pace. The sudden onslaught of sensation was too much, and my back arched as I came. I think I stopped breathing for a couple of heartbeats before taking in shaky mouthfuls of air. My entire body felt electric, every muscle trembling from the aftermath.

Paul slowed, then stopped, pulling out before gently placing my legs back on the bed. I couldn't have done it myself had I wanted to. He watched me for a moment, a look of awe and tenderness in his eyes before he climbed off the bed and headed to the bathroom. When he got back and began to wipe my body down with a damp cloth, I realized he'd gotten rid of the condom. All I was able to muster was a contented hum, which made him chuckle.

He disappeared again, and this time when he came back, he brought over the champagne and a couple of glasses. I managed to maneuver myself to the side of the bed, allowing him to climb in next to me. He struggled to open the bottle properly, and when he managed to do so without any of the drink spilling over like I was used to seeing it happen, I asked him where he learned that. He grinned and shrugged as he said, "Friend of mine taught me how it's done."

I couldn't help the stab of jealousy I felt as I pictured him with another guy, celebrating something together. He must have seen where my mind was when he handed me my glass because he ducked his head and kissed me briefly. "She taught a bunch of us the night we celebrated her best friend's twenty-first birthday. Charlotte grew up on a vineyard, knows all sorts of shit I'd certainly never even thought about. She even took a few of us on a wine tour." He tilted his head, grinning, "Now that was fun."

Lowering my head, I mumbled an apology. Putting his finger under my chin, he nudged me so I would look at him. His glass in hand, he took a quick breath and smiled. "Jake...I'm yours...completely, and for as long as you'll have me...okay?"

Hearing both what he was and wasn't saying, I nodded. Paul's smile widened, and he tipped his glass to mine as he whispered, "To our future?"

I grinned, and where his toast had come out as a question, I didn't hesitate. "To our future."

A/N: As most of you know, real life has been kicking both of us hard all summer. Because of that – and the fact that SorceressCirce goes back to work the day after tomorrow – we have had to come to a tough decision regarding our posting schedule.

Keeping up with weekly updates is just not possible for us right now, so in the interest of our readers, we want to keep at least one story updating regularly. Marked was our first story and is by far our most ambitious. It will continue to post every other week, starting Sunday, August 8th.

We will still be working on Be Careful What You Wish For, and it will still update. It just won't be on a set schedule. We will work on it as life allows, and we fully intend to see the story through to the end. We would continue to post both of them as we have been, but clearly, that can't happen at the moment. If life lets up, and we feel we can handle the regular updates on both stories again, we will go back to it.

We thank you for always supporting us and for being so understanding. The next chapter of Wish is almost finished and could post sometime this week. If not, we'll see you next Sunday for Marked!