I know, I know, it's been a long time. I've been on hiatus for numerous reasons. It was unanticipated and lasted longer than intended, but I'm back. I won't be spending quite as much time on fanfiction as I had over the past year and a bit because that was just an unreasonable amount of time! What can I say? Some of the initial ardor that often comes with a new passion has faded. In any case, here is Chapter 10, at long last.

Before we get started, I must first thank my beta, JaspersDestiny, who was, and is, still around to beta for me even though I dropped off the face of the fandom world without notice.

Next, a short recap: Last time we were in Jacob's head, he had been Alpha ordered by Sam, disabling him from visiting Bella, or speaking to her about the pack. This really put a kink in Jacob's plan; however, being the clever boy that he is, he found a way around it. With Embry's help, he got to Bella's house late at night and had a conversation with her, using Embry as a "telephone" so to speak. We left off with Jacob happy as can be, Embry suspicious and confused, and a date where Jacob and Bella went for a hike and came upon a familiar meadow...

Chapter 10 – Will Either of Us Ever Have a Boring Birthday?

"I think this is even better than your lasagna!"

"You told me nothing tasted better than my lasagna. Not even cake."

"Well, I was wrong."

"Guess I'll add five more years to my age."

"It's only one thing—totally not worth five years."

"You just said it was better than a pasta dish that beat out chocolate cake!"

"Fine, take your five years. I'm still at thirty-six, and five more will only take you to thirty-four."

"Shhh!" someone whispered harshly from behind us.

"Sorry," I whispered back, just as the two of us broke out in muffled laughter.

"What do you call these again?" I asked quietly.


"Well, thanks for making them."

"No problem. I wouldn't want you to go broke buying out the snack stand." The theater was dark, but I still saw the eye roll, along with the smile. "Besides, you wouldn't let me get you anything for your birthday. This was all I could think of!"

I never got you anything for yours. It was an unsaid rule of ours—anything that happened before was never to be mentioned.

"Do you think we'll get caught?" She looked around worriedly.

"For what?"

"Sneaking food into the theater!" she answered.

"I'm pretty sure it isn't a felony. Besides, won't Charlie get us off?"

"This isn't his jurisdiction." Obviously, the sarcasm was lost on her.

"Don't sweat it, I'll take the blame. I'm still a minor." She giggled while I scowled. The last thing I needed was to remind her I was younger. It was one of the many excuses she made to herself whenever the line between friendship and something more became blurred.

Almost four months ago, following that day in the meadow, Bella had turned a new leaf, according to Charlie. From that point forward, she made an effort to live, but as hard as she tried, there was always something missing. Bella went to school, did her homework, hung out with me, and worked at Newton's, but it was forced.

The first time the new and desperately-wanting-to-improve Bella came to visit me in La Push was after school on Halloween. I was in the garage tinkering with the Rabbit when a waft of strawberry scented shampoo swept in.


My first thought was, Wow, she spoke first!

"Hey, what are you doing here?" I asked, looking up from my work.

"It's Halloween."

"Yeah, I know. If you're here trick-or-treating, you're kind of early."

"Charlie's working late tonight, and I don't want to be at home when kids dressed up as…you know…come around."

At the time, it struck me as odd that she spoke to me so openly about them. I took it as a good sign.

"Maybe I can hang out here?"

I didn't answer right away.

"You have plans, don't you? Wow, this is really embarrassing." She bowed her head and shuffled her feet.

"No! I don't have plans."

"You're just saying that."

"Stay here and you'll and see. No one's going to come around. Seriously." I was still on house arrest with Sam for disobedience, so it was actually true.

"Okay," she answered hesitantly.

I returned to my work, in an attempt to show her she wasn't in my way, when I felt her come closer. Her breath warmed the back of my neck as she leaned forward, trying to get a look at what I was doing.

"Maybe I can help?" she asked.

I wanted to say yes, but she didn't strike me as overly handy. Looking around desperately, my eyes zeroed in on the car seat sitting on the garage floor.

"Can you sew?"

"I know how to sew, but I can't make anything useful."

"That's fine. Do you think you can sew the tears in the seat upholstery? I've got a sewing kit with upholstery needles and stuff."

"Sure, I can give it a try."

"Try" was exactly what she did. Unfortunately, the result was not a success. It took her a long time to thread the needle, and then she went through some complicated ordeal to tie a knot at the end of it. Not wanting to make her feel self-conscious, I pretended not to notice, trying to concentrate on my own tasks.

Things began to look up once she got started, and one tear actually got mended nicely until I heard her scream.

The myth about redheads being bleeders had to be false because there was no way anyone could bleed as easily as Bella. Blood covered her index finger and dripped from her wrist. I thought she might have lost a finger until I realized the only thing in her hand was a sewing needle.

I grabbed some paper towels and ran to her side, wiping her finger before applying pressure to the wound.

"Sorry," she said quietly.

"You're allowed to bleed here, Bella."

She looked away from me, staring down at the paper towel held to her finger. An eternity of silence passed before I whispered, "Sorry."

Bella shrugged, the look of horror fading from her face.

Once the bleeding stopped, I put a bandage on the cut, and we returned to our work.

When she had shown up, I had expected questions, things I hadn't been prepared for, answers she had never received, but none came. The two of us continued on in silence until the moon rose, and she left as unceremoniously as she had arrived.

"It's time for me to get back," she announced. "This was good. Thanks for letting me stay."

"Sure, sure, no problem."

"Hope you didn't get behind in your homework because of me."

I was behind all right, but it had nothing to do with her.

"Nothing I can't handle." I lied.

"If you want, maybe we can do homework together sometime—so Billy won't get upset about me visiting."

"Sounds cool. How about tomorrow?"

"Okay. Same time?"


"See you."

"Yeah, see you."

I stood at the edge of our property, and watched her truck drive away, thankful I had dragged Embry to visit her that night a month ago. Before she came to visit, I had often wondered if what I did last month was the right thing, but it turned out well for both Sam and me. Who would have thought?

The day following that visit to Bella's, with Embry in tow, went as planned. Bella and I went on our hike, and then I returned home for a quiet dinner with Dad and hit the sack early.

It wasn't until Monday that I was forced to face the consequences of my actions.

That morning, I arrived at school early and had just made it across the parking lot when Paul and Jared confronted me.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, Black?" Paul shouted, pushing me. "You're fucking around with our lives too!"

"Don't touch me!" I yelled, confused. How had they found out? I wondered. I hadn't phased all weekend. That's when I caught sight of Quil and Embry walking over to me. Paul grabbed me by the arm, his face close to mine. Jared stood beside him, his arms crossed in front of him.

I looked Embry in the eye and shook my head subtly. Jared noticed and followed my gaze.

"Paul, let go of him. You're creating a scene," Jared barked, prying Paul's hand off me.

Embry took a step back, pulling on Quil's arm to keep him from getting involved.

"Piss off, Em!" I heard Quil hiss. "Lahote doesn't scare me."

"Come on, man. Jake can take care of himself."

"It's not a fair fight. There're two of them."

"Look, Paul's backing off. We can keep an eye on them from over there." Embry guided Quil away, but he kept glancing over his shoulder every few steps.

"So, seriously, Embry, Jake actually said that Sam gave him orders?" Quil asked as they walked away.

That was how they found out! Sure, Embry had no idea that Paul and Jared could hear everything they said, but still, did he have to tell Quil everything?

"Does Sam know?" I asked Paul and Jared.

"We only found out two minutes ago, but you bet your ass he's going to know real soon!" Paul spat.

"I didn't tell anyone our secret."

"What did you tell them, Black?" Jared asked suspiciously. "Embry seems to know about orders and shit."

"He has no idea there's any mystical voodoo involved, all right?"

"You stupid turd! If you were going to spout your big mouth to one of your little friends, couldn't you have picked Quil? At least he's Quileute. Shit, he'll probably end up in the pack soon anyway."

I did a double take, looked over at Quil, back at Paul and Jared, and noticed they were all big for their age. Sure, so was I, but not like them. Of course, Quil worked out a lot, and both his dad and granddad were big men…but still. My eyes remained on Quil, examining him more closely. He had put on quite a bit of bulk in the last month. Even with all the working out, it was a lot of weight, and I was pretty sure he wasn't taking steroids.

"Is that what happens—you get big first? But what about me?" I was tall, but still fairly slim.

Paul shrugged. "You would've, too, if it hadn't been accelerated by being in that house when the leech attacked. At least that's what the council thinks."

"But the Ateara men are all big like that…" But had they been as big as Quil when they were fifteen?

"Quil's a direct descendent of the last pack. His bloodline's too strong to be ignored."

"But there's no catalyst. I mean, the Cullens are gone now, right?"

"Both of us phased after the Cullens left. Heck, Paul here phased last winter, more than a month after they left."

Greif overwhelmed me. Quil would end up with the same screwed up life I had, and Embry would be alone, abandoned by his best friends. How was any of this good for the tribe?

"You think you're above the rules, don't you?" Paul said accusingly.

"I'm all for rules, when they apply to all of us! I don't recall Sam ordering any of you to stay away from your friends!"

"She's not your friend!"

"Come on, Paul, let Sam take care of this." Jared pulled on his arm, and the two of them went inside.

I waited a few minutes before going in myself, thinking that was the end of it for today, until I saw Sam waiting out front for me when school let out.

"Dad's expecting me at home," I said curtly, moving past him without making eye contact.

"He knows I'm with you," Sam answered, walking alongside me. "We need to talk."

"Actually, we don't. I have nothing to say." More like I didn't want to hang around long enough for him to give me any more Alpha orders.

"I can order you to—"

"This!" I shouted. "This is the reason why I have nothing to say! Who do you think you are, deciding who I can be friends with?"

"She's not the type of person you should be spending—"

"You don't get to decide that!" I interjected.

"Your father agrees with me."

"Then he can tell me himself!"

"Fine! Maybe Billy will have a better time talking some sense into you!"

"Take the order back."


"The order."

"What difference does it make now?"

"I want the freedom to visit her!"

"And tell her our secret?"

"We already know hers, I mean theirs! Not that I'd say anything about us. I mean, admitting I turn into an oversized dog is probably not going to go over well."

Sam eyed me up and down and considered my words.

"Jacob, you're too young to understand this right now, but—"

"Piss off, Sam!" I butt in. "You're still a teenager too!"

"You've never been in a relationship with a girl before, not a serious one."

"No, I haven't, and at the rate things are going, it seems you're going to 'Alpha order' me against ever having one!" Anger kept me from thinking straight, thus the reason why I shouted words I should have kept to myself. "Just because you didn't get the girl you chose, doesn't mean the rest of us can't!"

Sam punched me, and I let him. Quite frankly, I deserved it.

I picked myself up off the ground, my nose throbbing. Gingerly, I touched it, running a finger along the bridge. Sam had broken it.

"It's beginning to heal. You better set it or it'll have to be re-broken." Who would have thought fast healing could be an inconvenience?

Sam's hands reached for my face. "I can set my own fucking nose!" I yelled, slapping his hand away.

"No you can't—not unless you have eyes floating in front of your face. I promise to make you as pretty as you started off." I scowled but didn't move away. Sam smiled, and with a look of both regret and concern, his rough fingers re-aligned my nose.

We exchanged no other words, but we both knew all was forgiven because we were brothers, stuck with each other for…well, pretty much eternity, it would seem.

"One day, Jacob, things are going to change, but for now, I'm in charge for a reason. If that weren't the case, then you would have been able to take the Alpha role the day we had our disagreement, and my orders would have had no effect on you. Like it or not, you're stuck with me, the same way I'll be stuck with you someday."

"Whatever," I muttered bitterly. "Still doesn't change the fact that you abused your authority when you butted into my personal life. I would never have done that! That's not what orders are for!"

"They're to protect us."

"Bella's not a threat! Even if I did want to tell her I turn into a giant dog, what the hell is she going to do with that information? Tell her dad? Call the networks? She was tight with a coven of vampires! No one has more reason, or proven themselves more able, to keep secrets than she has!"

"She's one of them. The last thing we need is to give them an unfair advantage."

"She's not one of them! Even if she wanted to be once, that's not the case now. They tossed her away like garbage. What kind of person would go back after that? Maybe she has something to offer us—ever think of that? Don't you think there might be things she knows that we might find useful?"

For once, Sam considered my words with genuine interest.

"Do as you please, Jacob. I'm tired of fighting you. Just don't compromise the pack, and share what you learn with us."

"Is that a command?" I sneered.

"It's a request." Sam let out a quiet sigh and walked away, muttering, "Can't wait to have kids…not."

"Jake?" Bella's voice jarred me from my thoughts and back to today—my birthday.

"Did you say something?" I asked.

"Yeah…I've asked you three times if you want another empanada."

"Oh, sorry. Guess I was lost in the movie or something." She gave me a questioning look, pushing an empanada in my direction. "Oh, yeah, sure, sure. These are great." I took it from her, devoured it in one bite, and looked up at the movie screen. The credits were rolling past.

Bella was leaning all the way over to her side, keeping her distance from me. This night was too much like a date for her, but she had agreed to it because it was my birthday. That was okay. I knew she wasn't ready, but I was willing to wait. Time was nothing to me.

"Come on, let's go." I stood up, offering her a hand. She looked at it, contemplating before taking it. The moment she was on her feet, she pulled her hand out of my grasp.

"It was nothing, Bells. I was only helping you up."

"I know. I just didn't want you to get the wrong idea."

Slowly, we made our way out to the parking lot. It was quiet for a Saturday night, and no one was within earshot of us. Stopping at the car, I turned to face her, gently holding her arms.

"Bella, I know you're not ready, and that's okay. I can wait as long as you want. I'm not going anywhere."

"You'll be wasting your time, Jake. It's never going to be different for me."

"It's my time to waste."

Bella looked over at my Rabbit. Today, my sixteenth birthday, was the first day it had been taken out for a ride. "I'm not some car you can fix up. You can't get spare parts to replace what's broken inside me."

He had broken her, and I was the only one left to put her back together. "This is because of him, right?" She wouldn't look me. "I'll always be here for you, Bells. I'd never hurt you."

In the distance, a wolf howled. We were in Port Angeles, so why was he here?

"Jake?" My attention turned to the girl standing in front of me. How long had I been unresponsive? "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, sorry." I took the keys out of my pocket and unlocked her door. "I've got to get back. There's something I need to do."

The howl sounded again, but louder this time—loud enough that Bella looked out into the distance, her face confused.

"What's so urgent that you need to attend to at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night, on your birthday no less?" she asked.

I held the door open and waited for her to get in. She didn't budge. "Please, Bella. This is kind of important."

There were two more howls, followed by what sounded like yelping or barking. Anxiety shot through me, and my body overheated. I trembled where I stood, the wolf wanting to join the pack that was calling for him.

"Jake, what's wrong?" Her hand reached out, touching my cheek. "You feel hot. I think you're coming down with a fever."

"You're probably right." This was good; I could use this. "Let's get back, and I promise to go straight to bed the minute I get home."

"Okay, are you all right to drive?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

I was unable to speak during the drive—the scent and sound of the running wolf too prominent to ignore. What was happening, and where were the others?

But I wasn't the only one creating the silence. Bella didn't look at me once. Her hands clung to the dashboard as we raced to Forks. She didn't complain, even though the excessive speed frightened her. It seemed to have brought back memories of him. She always got that way when something reminded her of him—silent and distant.

I pulled the car into her driveway, and opened my door before the car came to a complete stop. Bella noticed how rushed I was and was out by the time I got to her side of the car. She turned to walk away, but I stopped her, my hand on her elbow.

The wolf was waiting for me behind the trees, but I had more information now. The scent surrounding Bella's house was fresh and undeniably vampire. Was he back, or was it someone else?

Something was going to happen tonight. I could feel it in the air and in my heart. No other vampire had a reason to choose this house over all the others. There was only one reason, one girl, who would bring him here.

The wolf in the trees paced, his paws padding on the moist earth. He was anxious, and the looming danger made me feel the same urgency.

"Bella, I don't care if you're broken or that you might never get fixed. I'm here for you, no matter what. I'll never leave."

Bella looked down at my hand and then her gaze moved up to my eyes. She was frightened, and I knew why. Sweat had dampened my face, dripping along my hairline. Heat, even more than usual, emanated from my body, and every limb trembled.

She reached over with her other hand, pressing it to my face.

"Are you okay, Jake? You should get home."

What if I left and didn't see her for days? What if he got to her first? We had spent months becoming friends—best friends. I didn't want to lose her.

"Bella? Can I ask you for something without you freaking out?"

I was going to wait until later, when the time was right, but now the right time may never come.

"Okay…" She looked scared.

I moved in closer, holding onto her with both hands.

"Will you kiss me?"

"No," she answered quickly, almost automatically.

"I won't let it mean anything," I pleaded. "I'll forget it happened. I feel like something's going to happen. I…don't feel…right." What else could I say? That her vampire was probably back, that I needed to stake a claim to give myself a fighting chance? All the reasons were self-serving.

"That's because you're sick." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself.

"Please?" She didn't reply, but that was good. It wasn't a yes, but it wasn't a no either. Cautiously, I moved in closer, bending down. I paused, uncertain if I should just do it, but she answered me before I finished my thought.

Her lips touched mine, cool, soft, and cautious. Afraid of scaring her away, my hands wound slowly around her, resting on her back. Hers slid up to my neck, into my hair, grabbing hold. Bella's lips lingered before pressing firmly and moving with mine. For a moment, I forgot about the wolf pacing in the trees, the howl of another in the distance, and the stench of vampire surrounding us. I was lost in a fantasy where I was still just a boy and Bella was just a girl, both of us ignorant of anything other than school, friends, and first kisses—my first real kiss anyway.

It was me who pulled away, and when I did, Bella's eyes were closed.

"Did you see?" Bella asked quietly. Alarmed, my eyes darted around, wondering if she had seen the leech. There was no one and nothing but us. She breathed in deeply, exhaled slowly, and murmured, "Jacob." Slowly, her eyes opened, meeting mine. She looked like she had awoken from a deep sleep—no, a dream—and her eyelashes fluttered, as though to focus, unaware of where she was.

The wolf yelped.

"Be here when I come back?" I asked.

Bella didn't ask what I was talking about. Instead, with knowing eyes, she answered, "Okay."

I took one last look and ran into the woods.

If you'd like to read Bella's point of view during this first kiss, you can read it in the very short, one hundred word drabble, First Kiss, Just Like the Other One, which is one of the chapters within my story, Twilight 25 Round 6.

Thanks for reading and sticking it out during my hiatus. The next chapter won't be so long in coming as this one, and as always, I appreciate each and every review!