Author Notes: First off, so sorry for how long it's been. It's been really rough finishing my thesis, but I am finally at the homestretch. This chapter is short, but I wanted to get something out there for those of you who have been waiting. So, again, my apologies, but thanks for hanging in there. I will keep going until you've seen the story you started to the finish.
Seth is standing on Leah's porch, leaning against the railing of the steps. He looks up as we approach from the woods, and I have a feeling that he has been standing there since we left, waiting. I see him in spurts, in a slideshow. I am holding Leah's hand, and she is leading us to her house. I know this must have been difficult for her, as my footing has been so unsure. I can't stay in the present world. My vision goes from clips of her back to reruns of Renesmee to the leaves hanging overhead. I feel like parts of me are fracturing and tearing away.
A loud voice is demanding of me, What are you doing? How could you? Traitor. Liar. Monster.
I am leaving Renesmee behind, breaking the bond that demands that I stay constantly near to her, protecting her. It feels as if my heart is splintering, but I tell myself, between hungry gulps of air, that this is not a real feeling. I was never really in love with Renesmee. It is just the spell of the imprint trying to fool me.
I trip over something I can't see in Leah's yard, but she keeps me firmly upright with only a small groan to protest the weight of me. If I had room in me to think of it, I would puzzle over the idea that Leah has become my support system, that she, of all people, would be the one here with me right now. I try to focus on her, but I only see glimpses of her dark hair ruffling over her shoulders as she drags me on.
There is a voice in me that wants to protest, that wants to turn heel and run back to Renesmee, explain myself, beg for forgiveness. A swell of anger overtakes it, and it actually feels good. This is the first time I have been able to feel angry toward Ness—Renesemee. I want out. I want to be my own person. Turning away from her today, that has to mean something. I grip Leah's arm more tightly. What would she say if I asked her to leave with me right now?
"I don't believe it."
Leah stops us at the bottom of the steps to her porch. She is looking at Seth, who spoke, so I look too and make a concentrated effort to focus on him, to keep myself in the present. He is frowning, looking from one of us to the other. His arms are crossed over his chest.
"What?" Leah says.
"You saw them, didn't you? And he still walked away?"
I feel Leah tensing next to me, can smell her anger.
"You knew they'd be there?"
Seth shrugs. "Yeah, we were all supposed to have dinner tonight. I thought it would be the best way to cut to the chase."
My world swirls around me. My knees feel like they're weakening, so I lock them, shake my head. I focus, again, on Seth. Now, he is only looking at me too. I see now what has happened. I don't know whether I am angry or grateful.
"So," I say, my voice sounding gruff and foreign to me, "did I pass the test?"
Leah looks angry, like she might take a swing at her brother, but I hold her back, surprisingly able to stay focused now. Seth has never imprinted, but he knows how it works. From our conversation earlier in the kitchen, he hadn't believed me. He'd had to make sure before he backed down. It was hard to be angry over the fact that he was protecting his sister, but I would also like to take a swing at him. It was not just me that he was testing, but also his sister. Now that it is no longer a secret, this thing between us, how will everyone else react?
Seth makes frowns. "Yeah, I guess so. Now what?"
I know he must be referring to the vampires, how they must have handled seeing us together poorly. I don't respond. Edward had told me the pact was off, to stay on our side. That was my fault. How would my pack deal with the kind of problem that their own alpha had caused? Would I be tossed out? I look toward Leah and then toward Seth. Am I sorry? I don't think so. Not really. I open my mouth to try to explain, but Leah cuts across me.
"Get out of here. We'll discuss it later."
Seth lingers for a moment, but even I know where arguing with Leah gets you: nowhere. He jogs down the few steps of her porch and heads for his truck, while Leah pulls on my arm again and leads me inside.
I lock the front door after we are inside. I don't know why. Anyone that could follow us will be able to easily break down a door, locked or not, and it's unlikely that anyone will anyway. I feel like a murderer, as if someone will be arriving shortly to take me to prison. But that is not the case. I stole someone's fiancé. I humiliated her in front of her family. I almost single-handedly broke a treaty of peace. No one would be coming after us, but there would be a price to pay, surely. I don't know if I take Jacob's hand or if he takes mine or which one of us leads the other to my bedroom, but we lie down on the bed, fully clothed, and hold one another. I press my face to Jacob's chest and feel momentarily safe.
"We should leave," he says, at length.
My eyes are already closed. I don't open them or pull back to look up at him. It is an idea that has already crossed my mind. It is unlikely that we will be welcomed to stay by many in Forks or even La Push. The other wolves are sure to be angry that we put ourselves over the pack, over the people we live to protect. We might as well have murdered someone.
But, more than that, I am wondering if Jacob can go on living this close to Renesmee. Even now that he has betrayed the imprint, I can't make myself believe that it's broken. I had noticed the way he'd stumbled through the woods, barely seeing. He had still clearly been dealing with the repercussions of our actions. Would he ever be completely mine? Would leaving make a difference? Maybe miles could separate them. Maybe distance could break this curse. I want to believe it. I would move to Alaska with him if it could be real.
"And go where? Do what?"
I have to be the voice of reason. Don't I? Isn't it wrong to still be so selfish?
"Anything," he says, his arm around me tightening.
"But the pack… You're alpha."
"Those shoes won't be hard for Sam to fill. And who will really want me as alpha now that I've broken the treaty? That's not a very good leader, putting himself above others."
Jacob presses a kiss to the top of my head. I keep my eyes closed. My throat feels tight.
"You can't love me here, can you?"
Jacob holds his breath. My head on his chest is still. An aching begins at the edges of my heart. I knew this would be difficult. I ask myself why I have to make it more difficult. If leaving gives me what I want, why can't I just take it?
"Yes. I—I love you."
His voice is cracked, but I would not be able to mistake the words. I look up, but now his eyes are closed. He shakes his head.
"Let's just sleep on it," he continues. "Okay? Wake up fresh and decide then, all right?"
My heart is swelling now, and hurting, but Jake's free hand presses my head back down against his chest, and I can't talk anyway, for the way my breath is suddenly coming short. He said he loved me. With his eyes closed, yes, but… I try to draw in a breath and shut my eyes, suddenly very tired from all these emotions, all these aches and pains. I could use a nap, I decide. I could use a moment of blissful unawareness.
When I stir again, I know Jacob is already awake, and I wonder if he has slept at all. His hand squeezes my shoulder.
"What do you think now?"
I had been having a dream. We had been on a beach, an island, completely deserted. I can still feel the heat of the sun on my face, hear the ocean. In the dream, we had lived in a hut, our werewolf genes had gone dormant at that distance. We had been normal. The only love or feeling of any sort Jacob had felt was for me. I close my eyes for a moment more.
Why hadn't I thought of this before? If we lived far enough away from vampires, would we still change? The only reason our wolves had awoken this time had been because of the Cullens and the vampires their presence had drawn in. If we were far enough away, would our wolf genes go dormant? Would the imprint cease to exist?
If this is possible, I can have the real Jacob back. Just by leaving. Would I really miss anything here that much? Even my own mother seemed to have replaced me by vampires. I am tired of living in their shadow. I want—
"Let's leave," I say.
Jacob laughs. "Pack your bags."