Breathless, Ch. 5: Sunrise

*See author's note at the end, as per usual.

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I was ice.

The icy water whirled around me, thrashing my limbs, invading my nose and my mouth and my lungs. It reached my heart, freezing it solid, weighing it down inside my feeble ribcage. The silent, numbing sensation traveled through my blood, touching every last corner of my body until I was solid and cold. I began sinking downwards, heavier and darker and deeper, the weight of my frozen body dragging me into the unfathomable depths below.

I woke with a start, though it must have been the tenth time I'd had this dream in the past week alone. Once again, my hand flew to my heart, feeling the erratic rhythm pounding beneath my palm. Blood. Warmth. Life. Right.

I heard a tap on the window and whipped my head around to face where the early morning light was streaming through my open blinds - but I saw nothing.

I turned back to face the clock, saw that it read 6:07 AM, and groaned-

Tap!

I hobbled to the window, clutching my dimly aching thigh. Wet droplets of morning rain were collecting on the pane, and my heart stopped immediately when on the ground below I saw russet skin and dark hair.

Jared.

I thrust open the window, ignoring the wet drops landing on my face. "What are you doing out there in the rain without a shirt?" It was honestly a wonder that the man didn't have hypothermia yet.

"Can I come up?"

"Yeah. I'll get the door."

"No, it - just...step back."

Right. What was he planning on doing exactly, flying through my window?

I stepped away from the window and was thoroughly shocked when, faster than my brain could really register it, he was standing inside my room, dripping wet and breathing heavily, looking like a Quileute demi-god.

"Hey," he said casually, throwing me a lopsided grin, like he hadn't just launched himself fifteen feet in the air, defying all known laws of physics.

"Um, hi," I stammered. "I won't even bother asking how you did that. I'm just adding it to the list of Freaky Shit that Jared Does that I Can't Explain."

Jared laughed and the sound soothed me right to my core. "You're funny." He stepped right in front of me, towering over my minuscule height, and wrapped his impossibly long arms around my body. "How are you feeling this morning?"

I hugged him back hesitantly, the feeling of his furnace-hot skin underneath my hands rendering all coherent thought almost impossible. "I'm good," I mumbled into his chest. God, his smell was absolutely intoxicating... "You're so warm..."

Jared's hands ran soothingly along my back; he may as well have been lighting me on fire. "I was worried about you last night."

I pulled back from the smooth, never-ending skin of his back to peer into his dark eyes. There were shadows underneath them, and his mouth was pulled into a tight, firm line. "You were worried about me?" The words felt foreign on my tongue.

One of Jared's hands came up to cup my face, and it felt like I was being born again. What is he doing to me? "Yes," he affirmed, his thumb stroking softly along my cheekbone. "Last night..." He trailed off, uncertain of what to say.

Shit. You scared the shit of him, Kim. You're so stupid. You punched a mirror and then he tried to make out with you and then you burst into tears. Could there be anything more horrible to a guy?

"I'm sorry," I murmured, and pulled back from his warm embrace. "I'm stupid. I'm really sorry if I pissed you off. I don't know what got into me." Please don't hate me.

"Pissed me off?" he repeated, pulling me back towards his chest. "You didn't piss me off, Kim. I was worried about you, I told you. I just want to know if you're ok."

My heart swelled with relief. "You mean you're not freaked out by the fact that I lost it and sobbed like a baby?"

Jared's mouth pulled into a firmer line, but his hands were impossibly tender on my face. "Not at all, honey," he confirmed, shaking his head. "Do you feel better now, though?"

Yes. You're here and now I can breathe again and I'm finally warm and please don't ever leave me (holy fucking shit, this was so messed up).

I at least had the decency to only nod.

Jared looked visibly relieved. "Good." He reached for the hand I had injured last night and held it delicately in his palm. "Are you going to tell me what happened last night?" he prodded gently, stroking my hand over the bandages he had placed last night.

I felt my cheeks flushing in shame. "I punched a mirror," I mumbled.

He looked like I had just tried to explain quantum physics in Japanese. "You...punched a mirror? Jesus. Why?"

I felt tears pooling my eyes (shit shit, not this again) and held my lids shut, willing myself not to cry. "I uh...I wasn't feeling too great."

I found myself being suddenly swept up into Jared's arms, one arm cradling my shoulders and the other at the crooks of my knees. He sat on my bed, the mattress shifting beneath his weight, and positioned himself so he was leaning against the headboard, cradling me against his body. "Tell me," he pleaded.

He's going to think you're fucking insane, Kim, the rational side of me reasoned. But truthfully, he probably already did, so what the hell, right?

"I kept having dreams..." I swallowed a lump in my throat. "I'd wake up every night freezing. I couldn't breathe. It felt like the sun was going out of my world, like I was dying..." How could I properly convey the feeling of literally living in a black hole, of being a walking corpse, frozen and in the dark and dead?

"Shit," he said, and clutched me impossibly tight against his chest. "Kim, shit, I'm so fucking sorry. This is my fault."

"Your fault?" I murmured into his warm skin. "My going insane is in no way your fault." Well, maybe just a little.

Jared was silent for a moment, stroking my hair, cradling my head in his palm. "I shouldn't have stayed away for so long. I had no idea you were feeling those things, too. You told me to go away, and I didn't want to hurt you..."

I pulled away from his chest, blinking stupidly at him. "What do you mean, 'I was feeling those things, too?'"

Jared's eyes were hard and cold, fixating on a spot on the wall somewhere just beyond my head. "I thought it was just me. The dreams, the cold...if I'd have known, I wouldn't have stayed away." He continued speaking like he hadn't heard what I'd said.

"Jared." I pressed my hands against his face, the first time I'd taken the initiative to touch him. It brought him back to reality immediately. "You're not making any sense. You were having all the same problems as me, the nightmares, the cold...?"

He nodded once, sharply, his eyes trained onto my face. "That's what happens to me when I'm not near you. My body temperature was lower than ever and it was literally impossible to sleep. I was throwing up almost every night. I knew it would be bad for me when you told me to leave, but I didn't know you would feel it, too."

"Are you saying that...when you're physically away from me...when we're away from each other...we actually have physical symptoms?" I was a romantic girl and all, but even that seemed way too fucking insane to be real.

He nodded again, looking stricken. He reached out to caress my face. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Kim. This is all my fault. This isn't fair to you, you didn't even have a choice..."

I pressed the heels of my palms against my eyes, trying to ground myself into reality. "This is insane."

"I know. Shit...Kim...I don't...I don't want to leave you...but maybe there's a way to stop this, maybe I can break it somehow. I don't want to hurt you...this isn't fair to you at all."

No.

I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about, but there was one thing I knew for sure: he was not fucking going anywhere. "No. You aren't leaving me," I ground out, my voice raspy and guttural and sounding nothing at all like me.

I heard the words coming from my body, but they felt nothing like my own.

Where did that come from?

I clamped my hand against my mouth in horror. "I'm so sorry," I gushed out, my voice back to its timid, breathy whisper. "I don't know what made me say that, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, Jared."

There was a look in his eyes I couldn't identify at all, but something about it shook me to my very core. When he spoke, his voice was low and strained and desperate somehow. "I'm not leaving you," he assured me, annunciating every word with perfect clarity, though his voice shook at the edges. "Whatever you want. Anything you want."

I stared at him, stunned into silence.

"You can't be serious," I dared to whisper.

"I'm dead serious," he countered, pulling my hand over his heart; it was beating frantically beneath my hand. "I tried to tell you last night, Kim. You tell me to stay and I'll never go anywhere ever again. I'm yours."

Yes. He's yours. All yours. Take him.

A compelling force - too impossibly strong to ignore - pushed me into his body, made me press my mouth against his own, made me meld the contours of my body into his. MineminemineJaredJaredJared.

He groaned at the unexpected contact, and his hands came to rest immediately against my lower back. He kissed me fervently, his lips moving against mine with a fierceness that both terrified and thrilled me.

Jared's hands slipped down to my hips and he pressed his fingers hard enough to leave marks. "Open your mouth," he commanded, whispering against my lips. I could do nothing but obey him as his hot tongue slipped between my parted lips and toyed with my own tongue. Oh my god, this is what life is all about, don't stop, don't ever stop.

I moaned against his mouth and the sound seemed to drive him over the edge. He wrenched his lips from mine. "Holy fucking shit, Kim," he gasped, and quickly flipped me so I was on my back, pressed into the mattress. He held my hands above my head and gripped my wrists so hard I thought the bones might break, fastening his mouth back to mine, bruising me with his kisses.

You should be terrified, my rational brain screamed at me. You don't even know this guy.

Shut up, I told her. This felt way too right.

Like he could sense my inner dialogue, he pulled back slightly, easing up on his grip on my delicate wrists. "I'm not going to hurt you," he assured me, kissing me once more - sweetly this time - to emphasize his words.

"I know," I breathed, realizing it was true the moment the words tumbled from my throat. "Don't stop."

Jared groaned and fastened his mouth to my neck, sucking at the tender skin there. "Whatever you want," he repeated, and though the words were husky with lust, I could sense the tenderness beneath them. "Anything you want." His hands wandered from my wrists to rest against my waist. "God, you're beautiful, Kim."

I felt my heart constrict in my chest.

Jared sensed my hesitation and lifted his face from where it was nestled against my collarbone. He watched my face intently and traced my brow bone with the pad of his index finger. "What is it?"

Don't lose it don't lose it don't lose it. My eyes felt wet, and I pushed his hands away, sitting up to scoot towards the foot of the bed.

"Kim? Shit. What is it? What did I do? Are you ok?" His voice was frantic.

I closed my eyes and wrapped an arm carefully around my (imploding) chest.

No one had ever called me beautiful before.

His words struck against something deep inside me, something ugly that had laid dormant and buried itself underneath laundry and grocery lists and homework and ordinary things. This boy - this boy I'd pined after for so long - was in my room, cradling and caring for me, kissing me, whispering sweet nothings into my ear. This was too much, too raw, too real.

"Kim, please," Jared was pleading with me, his hand at my elbow. "Talk to me."

"No one's ever called me that before."

"Beautiful?"

I nodded.

He paused for a puzzled moment. "Did I hurt you?"

I shook my head. "You didn't hurt me," I assured him, trying to keep the tears at bay. "I'm being stupid again."

"Just tell me what's wrong, Kim."

I let out a shaky breath and met his gaze, started at the intensity I saw there. "I just...don't know how to deal with this stuff."

"Physical stuff?"

"No," I countered quickly (though in truth the answer was a little bit "yes."). "This...other stuff. Telling me I'm beautiful. Calling me 'honey.' You being here at all."

Jared's face looked pained, and he spoke slowly. "Do you want me to stop?"

I shook my head and a few tears leaked from my eyes. "Please don't," I whispered. God, I wasn't making any sense.

Jared scooted close to me and wrapped one arm around my shoulders. His warmth sank into my skin immediately, pooling in my chest and spreading throughout my limbs, liquid life. "I get it, Kim," he said quietly, taking one of my hands in his own. "No one has ever cared about you before. No one has ever been there for you before. And you're scared that it's too good to be true."

I nearly gasped at his assessment. "Yes," I confirmed breathily, surprised by his understanding.

"Look," he said carefully. "I know what it's like." He paused for a moment, caressing my hand with his thumb. "My parents weren't the greatest people; my dad used to beat me and my sister around and my mom just sort of stood back and did nothing." I felt my heart constrict as I listened to his strained voice, and I grasped his hand more tightly in my own. "The state eventually took us out of there and we were taken in by my foster parents. They're really nice people; they've always given me and my sister everything we needed and they've been great parents. But it took me a long time to trust them. I was so used to being kicked around and neglected that it took a couple of years before I could get used to what it felt like to be loved."

Jared touched my face, imploring me to match his gaze. "I don't know what's gone on in your life, but I know what it's like to be afraid to trust. I know that you feel that way about me sometimes. I get that it's gonna take time, especially since I haven't always been the nicest to you." He sighed, rubbing my hand again. "I still have a lot of explaining to do. But for right now, I want to let you know that this thing between me and you is real. It is one-hundred percent the real deal and I am not ever gonna do anything to hurt you. Ok?"

I nodded feebly, swiping at the tears streaming down my cheeks. "Ok." I took in a shaky breath. "Thank you," I whispered. "For telling me about your life. And for understanding."

He smiled (my smile) and leaned forward to press a gentle kiss to my forehead. "You're welcome."

And it was like the sun was finally rising after the endless dark of night.

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To be continued...

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Author's note: Hello, my lovelies. Thank you for being patient for this update. School is totally kicking my butt right now. Thank you to all my reviewers and silent readers, I love you all forever.

On another note, I have changed the rating of this story to "M." First of all, I have a rather filthy mouth and realized that much of my language was not appropriate for the "T" rating. Secondly, I realized that Kim and Jared's relationship would eventually be taking a mature turn, and I didn't feel right leaving out parts I felt were important to the plot. I'm hoping that if I have any younger readers out there, they will understand my decision and hopefully adhere to the rating guidelines laid out by the site!

As always, feel free to leave comments, loving or scathing alike, at any and all times.

Love,

Madame Naberrie.