A/N: Alas, I finally present part of the thing that made me write all one million of those little one-shots I've been throwing out like nobody's business this year. This was originally going to be way longer (as it's already about 20 pages), but then I decided, "This is already long! Why should I try to bust my ass making the sequel really long when I can just have a third part, too?" I know, I'm pushing it. (Faithful readers [y'all know who you are], just tell me when you're sick of me.) But here it is, the sequel to Youth Knows No Pain, which I published in, like, April in 2012. Man. It's been quite a few fanfics since I started this sequel. I couldn't leave my baby alone. And Josh, this is for you.


Youth Knows No Pain, Part II

"I Follow Rivers"


Bella

Responsibility. Just act responsible. I am responsible.

That was my inner mantra as I unlocked the front door of my house—Charlie's house—and entered it. I shouldn't have been so scared. After doing the near impossible and running off with Jacob, basically saving him, nothing was supposed to scare me anymore.

I also shouldn't have been scared when it was obvious that Charlie wasn't even home. The Cruiser wasn't in the driveway. It was late, though. It was nearly eleven at night. Where could he possibly be? If he hadn't checked the entire coast of Washington for me already, then he had to be still looking now.

After throwing all my clothes into the laundry (even the ones I'd washed on the trip), I couldn't relax. I paced around my bedroom, my hands shaking uneasily. When would Charlie be home? Did I want him to be home? What if he was at Billy's house and—

That was when I heard something being thrown at my window.

Jacob.

I went to my window and sliding it open, I smiled down at him. "What are you doing here?" I asked. "Weren't you going to go home?"

He stood awkwardly on my lawn, which only made him look cuter. "I didn't wanna go home," he replied. "I mean, Sam…"

"He's gonna kick your ass," I implied.

"Yup."

"Well, come in," I told him. "Charlie's not home—yet."

"Alright, back up." I moved out of the way as he quickly climbed up the tree by my window and came into my room as quickly as he had the last time, before we'd left, only he'd been shirtless.

Before I could say anything, he pulled me into his arms and hugged me like he'd never see me again. I believed that he could hug me every day of his life. "Jake, what's wrong?" I murmured.

"We're dead," he said simply.

"No, I am," I replied. "I'm older than you. Remember? I'm the influencer. You're the influencee."

He chuckled. "I wish."

"Wasn't it worth it, though?" I asked. "I mean, Sam would've kept you away from me forever, wouldn't he?"

Jake sighed, let me go, and looked down at me. I missed his warmth already. He nodded. "Yeah. God, I just hate worrying."

"That's because you're not supposed to be the one worrying," I told him. I shook my head and smiled. This was ridiculous. Me telling him not to worry. "I mean, Jake, come on," I said, snaking my arms around his waist. "Sam can honestly suck it."

He chuckled again as he put his arms around me. "You've really caught on to my way of tongue."

"I don't think I've heard that saying before," I admitted, "but I've caught on to your ways of tongue in more ways than one."

He smiled. "Damn." He put his lips to mine, and the heat of his sweet kisses drove me wild. Just like our first kiss, it had set me on fire. I didn't want to cool down now.

With our lips together, he walked forwards, so I was walking backwards, and I sat down on my bed. I let go so I could scoot back and let him on the bed, too.

"Jake, are you trying to seduce me?" I asked.

He shrugged and sat down with me on the bed. "I dunno. It depends."

"On what?"

"If it's working or not." He winked.

"So you pull the good old Jacob Black charm on me and expect me to swoon?" I teased. "Cute, Jake."

"The cuter I get, the better it works," he said, batting his eyelashes.

"Nice try," I said. I gave a fake yawn. "I'm tired. It's late. My body's exhausted."

"Right, so you really can't get any more exhausted," he offered. "I mean, maybe you can catch a quick wind or something."

I knit my brows in confusion. "What?"

"Honey," he sighed. "I want you."

"Jake, you already have me," I assured him.

"I'm always gonna want you, Bells."

Bells. Jake and Bells.

It was music to my ears.

I nodded. "Jake, I know. I want you, too, it's just—"

"It's just what?" he asked suddenly. "You're killing me, baby."

"I really am tired," I told him. "And Charlie might be coming home soon."

"It's eleven, Bells," he reminded me. "He won't be coming home tonight."

"Well, I don't want to take any chances. If he comes home in the middle of us—"

"Youth knows no pain, remember?" He smirked.

"You'll know plenty of pain when he shoots you, Jacob Black," I assured him.

"Sure, sure," he said.

We were silent for a moment, and that was when I struck up something that I'd wanted to talk about for a while now. "Hey, Jake?" I asked.

"Yes?"

"Do you just like me because of the... the sex?"

Surprise or confusion (or maybe both emotions) swept his face. "What? No! Bella, what do you mean?"

"I mean, you're always..." I faltered.

"It's not a bad word, Bella. I promise. You can say the word 'horny' around me."

I laughed. "Okay, yeah. You're always... horny, and I've been wondering if you only like me because of that."

"Bella, honey, I would never use you. Especially not like that."

"Are you sure?" I asked quietly. I could feel myself blushing out of embarrassment.

"I'm positive," he replied. His eyes were like darts, going straight into mine. "Bells, your body's amazing but that's not what I fell for. I fell for you. Hell, I'm still falling. You know that?"

I nodded, and it wasn't just to make him feel better. I knew he loved me. Finally.

"Bells, you saved me," he said. "I love you. God, I love you so much. You're everything. Baby, you saved me. I could never use you, or just like you, for sex."

"Thanks," I said.

"Of course, honey. But hey, if you wanna vertically hang out more, then I'm willing. I'll show you more than just the United States. I can show you the world. But if not, I'll take you to the beach and to the store and maybe a movie and I'll even cook as long as I don't burn the house down and I'll get a job so I can have the money to take you out and—"

"I believe you," I assured him, giggling. "Jake, you really are adorable. You're too cute."

"I talk too much, don't I?" he asked.

"You do," I replied, putting my hands in his hair, "but I wouldn't want you to be any other way."

"Aww, honey," he murmured.

"You know, I need a pet name for you," I said. "You call me 'honey' but I don't call you anything… You know, I might as well just call you 'horny.' That's what you are."

"You're killing me, Bells."

"I don't mean to, Jake. I promise."

He looked into my eyes as if he could see my soul, and he must have liked what he saw.

"I can't lose you," he whispered absentmindedly. "I can't lose you again."

"You don't have to," I assured him. "I saved you, remember?"

"The crazy thing," he said, "is that I believe you. I mean, I know I'm not gonna lose you. I just…"

"What?"

"Sometimes…" He sighed quietly. "Sometimes I feel like I'm gonna disappear, you know?"

I shook my head. "Jake, you don't need me to tell you this." I took a deep breath. "But I always will. You're not gonna lose yourself. I would never let that happen."

"How?" he asked, giving me his puppy-dog eyes.

"I will tell you—I'll tell you all the time—how special you are. Simple as that."

He leaned in for a kiss and I gave in, pressing my lips to his in the most tender way possible.

I couldn't deny this kid—no, this man. It was so strange knowing that he was younger than me, but he had grown up in so little time. He'd had his innocence snatched away from him. He'd been pushed out of his adolescence, forced into the world of being a man. And I knew that it'd hurt him. Even as I'd saved him (from Sam or himself, I didn't know), he was still hurt. The wounds hadn't been stitched.

At the same time, though, his pain and how he was surviving was admirable. Inspiring. It also hurt me because his pain was now my pain. His happiness was my happiness. We were one. I hadn't just saved him; he'd saved me, too.

Jacob Black was my hero.


Jacob

Who would have thought that I would be sitting in Bella Swan's bed, kissing her like there was no tomorrow?

A week ago, I wouldn't have even guessed that this would happen.

Our little spring break road trip had changed a lot. It had changed way more than I'd thought it would. But I was glad. Boy, was I ever glad. Bella and I had only gotten stronger together, and I knew this would last forever. If it wouldn't… then shit, at least I'd tried. But by this, I was convinced that nothing could tear us apart. Not Sam, not her father, not a filthy bloodsucker… nobody.

Physically, right now, not even Bella would tear us apart. She started lying on her back on the bed, and I could only follow her lead.

I still couldn't believe it, but and hanging on was one of my specialties. This woman—this beautiful, fantastic woman—was my first. I planned on her being my only, too. I should've imprinted on her. That would've made things easier… and harder. As much as I loved dating her, our friendship was something I cherished.

She started to tug my shirt off, and this time I had to pull away instead. I groaned with a sudden realization.

"What?" she asked. "Charlie won't be home all night, like you said. I changed my mind."

"I can't, Bells," I told her.

She sighed. "Are you just doing this to get back at me?"

I leaned back. "No, no, it's not that. I just remembered something."

"What?" she demanded.

"I've got nothing with me right now," I said firmly.

She narrowed her eyes. "Really?"

I put my hands up in my defense. "Hey, hey, hey. Don't give me the death glare."

She pouted her lips, which only made her look even more adorable. "Well, I am," she replied. "Are you serious, though?"

"'Course I am," I said. "I'm pretty sure I'm out."

"We've only done it, like, what? Five times?"

"Six," I corrected. "I'm out of condoms, Bells."

She gave an exaggerated sigh. "Do we have to use one?" she whined. "I want you, Jake. I need you."

Man. Bella Swan actually had the hots for me. Bella Swan actually wanted to jump my bones. I still couldn't believe it.

In a way, I was glad I hadn't imprinted. If I'd imprinted, how could I find the restraint for her beautiful body? My current restraint wasn't at a very high level right now; if I'd imprinted, we would already have given up and gotten down. Easy as that. I just couldn't now, though, as tempting as she was.

"Yes," I finally answered. "I mean, come on, Bells, I can't take that kind of chance. You don't want a kid, do you? Because I don't. At least, not now."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine, fine. I guess you're right."

"Baby, it's nothing personal," I said.

"I know, Jake," she sighed.

"You seem mad at me."

"In all honesty," she replied, "I am a little mad. Just at myself."

"No you're not. You're mad at me."

"No, I swear. I'm mad at myself, not you. I've turned into such a sl—"

"Don't even try," I cut in. "Don't even try to call yourself a slut, because you're not, Bella."

"Well, I must be acting like it," she protested. "Crying over not being able to have sex one time."

"You're not crying," I said. "You're making yourself a victim of… well, yourself."

"Come again?"

"Bells, don't be so hard on yourself," I clarified.

"Sure, sure," she said, quoting me. "Will you still stay the night, though?"

"Of course. I didn't wanna spend the night in the woods."

She frowned. "God, Jake," she moaned, "I'm sorry I kidnapped you. You're gonna be in so much trouble and I—"

Jeez, this girl was gonna worry herself to death! "Don't you worry your pretty little head," I told her. "I'm a tough guy. I can take it."

She sighed. "Fine. Last worry of the night."

"You promise?" I asked with a smirk.

"I promise." She got up from her bed and went to her dresser. "I should get into my pajamas now," she said. "Do you need a pair of Charlie's sweats to sleep in or something?"

"I don't need to take his clothes. I've got all my stuff in the Rabbit. It's parked down the street." I got up and started heading to the window.

"No, don't leave," she disputed. "Just… I don't know, wear your boxers."

"Alright, then."

She turned around to her dresser again, and as she got her pajamas out of her drawer. I unzipped my jeans and stripped to my boxers, leaving my shirt on the floor, too. I went to her bed and lied down, making myself comfortable.

She turned to me as she unbuttoned her jeans, exposing her luscious legs, and put sweatpants on. "You just can't keep your shirt on, can you?"

"Nah. You'd end up stripping me down before the night's over, anyway."

"That only happened one time," she said with a roll of her eyes.

"You wish! It was twice."

"Fine, Mr. Undeniable." I grinned in response.

Bella slipped off her shirt and quickly put on a holey t-shirt that she just pulled from her dresser. "Watch me be horribly unattractive," she said.

"Unattractive?" I asked. "Honey, you couldn't look ugly if you tried."

"Ha, ha." She climbed into the bed with me and clicked off her lamp. I snuggled up to her, my arms wrapped around her little body.

She softly sighed in contentment. "I love being the small spoon," she murmured.

"We'd look a little ridiculous if we were the other way around, wouldn't we?" I asked.

"Mmm, I guess."

She started to drift asleep, but then I wondered aloud, "Can you imagine us having a baby?"

"I'm thinking of a newborn baby with a six pack," she replied. I laughed softly.

"I'm glad I amuse you," she said. "Now go to sleep, Jake."

"Sure, sure," I said. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath of her lovely scent (I swear, she better not change that shampoo—ever), and soon, I was dead asleep.

With Bella wrapped in my arms, I couldn't have been happier.


Bella

I woke up the next morning with a jolt. I quickly sat up, shaking myself from Jacob's hot arms. "Holy crap," I gasped.

He sat up, alerted as well but also confused. "What's going on?" he asked, dazed.

I darted out of bed and to my window. "Did you hear that?" I hissed without turning to Jake. "It was a car pulling in." I rubbed my eyes and peered out the window to see part of Charlie's Cruiser.

I went back to the bed and tried to pull Jake out with no such luck. "Charlie's here!" I whispered loudly. "Get out!"

He sat on the edge of my bed, totally at ease. "Hold on, Bella," he told me, "don't you think I should be here for when he yells at you? Because he's gonna wanna yell at me, too."

"I… I don't know," I admitted. "Should you? Well… I don't know. It's not like we're telling him anything huge."

"Yeah, but I can't let you take all the blame."

"Okay, come on," I said. "But put your clothes back on, okay? And we have to be downstairs before he is."

He jumped up and swiftly pulled his jeans and t-shirt on. Dammit. If only Charlie would come home later so I could see Jake shirtless for a little bit longer…

Business, Bella, I told myself abruptly. This is business.

Jake and I went downstairs quickly, and I could hear Charlie's keys jingling, ready to open the door. By the time the door swung open, Jake and I were plopping right onto the couch.

"Heeeey, Charlie," Jake said coolly, standing up as soon as he'd sat down. He walked over to the door to greet Charlie. I stood up, too.

"Hey, Dad," I said weakly.

He looked at us in surprise. There must have been added surprise for Jacob, since he was so much bigger than how Charlie had last seen him, and his hair was chopped off. "What the—where the—where the hell have you two been!?" he sputtered.

"We... we…" Jake began. "We ran—"

"We just took a road trip," I said quickly. "We were bored, and I wanted to see more of the country, and it was spring break, so I decided, why not?"

"Then why didn't you say so!?" Charlie yelled, his facial expression in a strange combination of anger and astonishment. He thrust his hand out at me. There was a tiny slip of paper in his hand, and I took it. "What kind of excuse was this!?" he demanded. Bella, I was two seconds to sending out a mass search party for you."

"I'm glad you didn't," I muttered, looking down at the note. It really was pathetic.

"Where'd you take her?" Charlie asked angrily at Jacob, stepping closer to him. "I swear, kid, if you hurt her, I'm gonna—"

"He didn't do anything!" I said, jumping between my father and Jacob. "This was all my idea. We… we… we kind of had to." I had to save my best friend, I wanted to add.

"I swear, Charlie," Jake said easily, "I didn't do anything. And it was our idea. I mean, look at it this way: we didn't miss school, and we came back in one piece."

"That's not the point, Jake," Charlie replied. He turned to me with hurt in his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me the truth?"

In all honesty, I hadn't known what was wrong with Jake back then. I'd only left with him to understand. To save him. We both needed the break and just some time to be together and try to make sense of everything. But I couldn't say this to Charlie.

"You wouldn't understand," I finally said. "I'm sorry, Dad."

"Well, young lady," he huffed with his hands on his hips, "I understood enough to not send out people to find you, or worse—find you myself. You gave me a heart attack."

"I'm sorry," I repeated. "I really am."

"Charlie," Jake began, "this was my fault. I… Charlie, I'm in love with your daughter, and we needed to get away. I love her so much, it's crazy. And she did this for me. No, we did this for each other. I just want you to understand."

I was wordless. Totally wordless. What Jacob said didn't change Charlie's expression, though. "Look, I don't care," he said. "But you, Bella, are grounded… for the rest of your life."

"Fair enough," I murmured.

"And you, Jacob," Charlie said with a finger pointed, "seem to be in a lot of trouble on the rez. Your dad's not that mad, but some other guys are. I was on the rez this morning, and a bunch of shirtless guys kept talking about you. I suggest you go now."

"Alright, Chief," Jacob replied steadily. "I'll be on my way, then."

Charlie moved so Jacob could exit through the front door.

"Bye, Jake," I called to him sullenly.

"Bye, Bells." Jake left the house promptly.

Charlie plopped down into his recliner. "Damn kids," he muttered.

"Am I really not allowed to see him anymore?" I asked suddenly.

"I think so, Bells," he replied honestly. "I know he loves you, but I don't think he's any good for you anymore. He made you sad a while back, remember?"

I couldn't force myself to think of the memories. "That was a misunderstanding," I replied.

"Well, from now on, I don't think you should see him anymore."

"But that's not fair," I protested, tears stinging in my eyes. "You know it's not fair."

"Life's not fair," he replied sternly. "Who says he can't hurt you again, Bella?"

"He won't," I said, my voice louder. "I understand now."

"Well, I don't, Bella. You're not going to see him anymore. I can't risk you getting hurt again."

"I'm better, though," I said curtly. "Jake's not like… like Edward. Jake's different. We can't be apart now."

"You're going to have to," he replied, not budging, "at least for a little while."

"But I love him!" I cried. "He loves me, too! And I understand him now! You can't keep me away from him!"

He sat up. "Oh, yes I can, young lady. Go up to your room."

"I'm an adult, remember?" I asked, my voice like acid. "I don't have to."

"I said, go up to your room," he repeated.

I didn't fight him anymore. I stomped upstairs to my bedroom, and before I slammed the door shut, I shouted, "Don't be surprised if I'm gone later."


I was so angry with my dad. Who was he to tell me to stay away from Jacob? If I hadn't gone off with Jake, I would still be unhappy! It wasn't fair.

I brushed my hair in a hurry, staring at myself in the mirror for a total of five seconds. I brushed my teeth just as fast, but hopefully thoroughly. I stepped into some jeans that felt a little too tight. I was in too much of a hurry to find a better pair. I threw my plaid jacket on and didn't even bother to zip it up all the way. And finally, I slipped my Vans on, got my keys, and went to my window. But then I stopped abruptly. It was a long way down, and I wasn't a werewolf.

I had to see Jake. There was no way that I wouldn't. I could only imagine that awful Sam Uley pushing him around, being mean to him. I now knew that Sam was there to "help" Jacob and the others, but I still felt the need to protect Jake. I didn't know what I would do, but… but I had to go with him. As powerless as I was in comparison to werewolves, I couldn't leave Jake to fend for himself. He'd saved me, so it was time to return the favor.


Jacob

Upon returning home to La Push, I saw Sam and the rest of the pack approaching my house. Great. Sam looked pissed from all the way over here, and I wasn't even out of my car yet!

I took my time to park, and I could see the annoyed expression on Sam's face. I laughed. He saw.

When I got out of the car, I also took my time to walk to the pack. It was a lazy Sunday; we had all the time in the world.

The pack approached me first, Sam in front, looking more pissed off than ever. I couldn't feel bad, though. It wasn't like the pack really needed me. Nothing had happened when I'd left. I'd be fine.

"'Sup?" I asked Sam.

He wasn't in the mood to make small talk, though. "Where were you, Jacob?" he demanded.

I shrugged. "Here and there. How have you been?"

"Cut the crap, Jake," I heard Paul say. I really should've cut the crap. It wasn't getting me anywhere. But for some reason, it was as easy enough to disobey the Alpha as it was to talk to him before all of this. I was the only person who could refuse the Alpha and get away with it. I wondered why that was.

"Alright, alright," I said, standing my ground. "I was… out." It was true, after all.

"Were you with Bella?" Sam necessitated.

Well, they're gonna find out someday… I nodded. "Yeah, I was."

"Jake, I told you not to be with her anymore. It's not safe—"

"You know what, Sam?" I asked. "I'm not gonna hurt her. I didn't hurt her once when we were gone."

"It's too much of a risk," he sat sternly.

I shrugged. "I'm gonna have to take that risk, then," I replied, "because we're not gonna be apart. Not anymore."

"What's more important, Jake!?" Jared asked harshly. "The tribe or some girl you didn't even imprint on?"

"You can't make me choose," I told him unsympathetically. Then I looked forward at Sam. "You're not gonna force me to choose between the girl I love and the reservation."

"You have to stay away from Bella," Sam told me. "End of story."

"That didn't work the first time!" I protested. "What the hell makes you think it's gonna work now?"

Sam was about to say something, but I interrupted him. "If I have to stay away from Bella," I warned, "then you had better expect me to leave again."

I then turned around and started walking back to my house, but I stopped when I heard the familiar rumbling of a vehicle…

Bella.

I idiotically ran down the road and jumped in front of the gurgling truck. "Bella!"

The truck braked quickly and Bella slammed against the seat. "Jake, what the hell!?" she exclaimed. She jumped out of the truck, leaving it in the middle of the road, and mindlessly flew into my arms.

"God, I just had to see you," she whispered, her head at my chest. "Charlie doesn't get it."

"What doesn't he get?" I murmured.

She pulled away and looked up at me, her eyes moist and honest. "How much I need you."


Bella and I had to go back to the pack. They were kind of watching us. Bella didn't care, though; she fearlessly marched up to Sam.

"You're not going to hurt him," she said fiercely.

"Why would he hurt Jake?" a voice in the back murmured. Bella's eyes narrowed, almost as if she didn't know Embry was there, or she couldn't believe it.

"I don't know," Bella replied, weaker than how she'd started, "but you're not going to mess with him. You hurt him enough."

"What are you?" Paul asked. "His mommy?" He started cackling, and Jared joined in.

Before I could stop her from doing something she'd regret, Bella slapped Paul in the face with the palm of her hand. The slapping sound echoed in the air.

Oh, shit.


"I cannot believe I just saw that," Bella muttered later that day. She'd been waiting in my garage for me (ignoring the pack's requests for her to go to Emily's) because after Paul phased, I phased, too. I'd had to come home naked since my clothes ripped, but now I was clothed and just right. I wished Bella was, though.

"You're kinda lucky," I assured her, sitting down next to her on the hood of the Rabbit. "You could've learned about... well, the pack, the hard way. You just kinda guessed."

"I was close to killing us," she told me. "Remember? I was driving."

I chuckled at the memory of Bella saying, "Holy shit" and almost swerving off the road.

"That's not funny," she said. "None of this is funny. I just saw you and Paul turn into… into…"

I nodded. "Bells, I know. But really, you could've figured out about us the hard way."

"And that wasn't hard enough?" she demanded, bewildered. "Jake, I'm not as tough as you may think I am."

"You're right," I agreed. "You're tougher. But anyway, that's not gonna happen again, because I took care of him."

She exhaled sharply, her eyes wide. "Believe me, I saw."

"I didn't mean to scare you," I said. "Really, Bella."

"I know, Jacob," she replied. "You were trying to protect me, and you did. I shouldn't have slapped him—Paul, right?—in the face. I wasn't thinking."

I grimaced.

"I know, I know. You're pissed at me for doing that," she said. "I get it."

"It's not even that," I replied. "We just called each other 'Jacob' and 'Bella.'"

"Don't we always?"

"Kind of. I just thought 'Jake and Bells' was more special."

This look of… of regret swept her pretty little face, and I immediately wanted to take back what I said.

"Oh, Jake," she mumbled. "I get what you mean."

"Really, Bells?"

"Really." She gave me a redeeming smile and with that, I was home. It was like I'd never been gone.

This day really did suck, though. It wasn't like I hadn't expected all of this shit to happen, but dammit.

I groaned. "Bells, this isn't how I planned this day. I swear."

She groaned, too, and rested her head on my shoulder. "This isn't responsible."

"Not even near it. I wasn't thinking last night. I'm tellin' ya, honey, I've got the sodas right in that corner over there."

"I'll have to take one to go," she said. "Charlie was mad at me earlier."

"I was there, remember?" I mentioned. "I confessed my love for you and everything."

She sat up and looked at me. "You meant all of that, Jake?" she asked, her voice as sweet as honey. It fit the nickname.

"One hundred and eight percent," I replied. "I wouldn't lie about how much I love you."

"I guess," she agreed.

"Do you not think I love you, Bella?" I asked. "I'm being serious."

"Jacob, I..." She traced imaginary patterns on my hand. "I know you love me," she finally said. "I just can't see why sometimes. It's a little hard to believe."

"Oh, honey..." I put one hand in her hair, and kept another clasped to her hand.

Her bottom lip quivered like she was about to cry. "Pathetic, huh?" she murmured, her eyes on our hands.

"Baby, no. You know why I love you?"

"Why?"

"Look at me, Bells?"

She looked up, and I could have sworn that she'd never looked more beautiful. Those chocolate brown eyes got me every time.

"I love you," I began, "because you're as smart as a whip, the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on, pretty damn funny, too, you stuck up to Sam, and... hell, girl. You saved me. I'll never stop telling you that. Okay? I... I could never stop loving you, Bells. I just couldn't."

She looked like she was about to cry. "I love you, Jake," she said, her voice almost a whisper. Then she kissed me. Man, that kiss. Nearly knocked the wind out of me, that kiss.

She put her hands in my hair as my own hands cupped her ass. I lifted her so she was straddling me as I was leaned against the Rabbit, and she didn't stop me. Damn, she wanted me.

...Or not.

"I can't," she breathed, pulling away.

"Again, Bells?" I asked.

"Don't be mad at me."

"I'm not. But... but why? You know, it's unfair to get me—I mean both of us—like this and then not do anything. This can't be healthy. What if we… blow up?"

She shook her head. "We're not gonna blow up. And my dad is probably looking for me," she admitted, untangling her legs from my waist and standing up. "Also, we're in your garage, for crying out loud."

"I guess this isn't the most romantic place," I agreed, still holding her at the hips. "But come on, neither are the bunch of motels we went to."

"Jake, if I'm gonna do this with you again, I don't wanna risk being caught. Who says my dad can't walk right in here?"

I sighed. "Sure, sure."

"Don't be pissy."

"I'm not being pissy."

We both sighed at the same time. I laughed; she didn't. She took my hands away from her hips and intertwined her fingers with mine between us. She really was a romantic when she wanted to be.

"I need to rent us a motel room," she finally said. "This has gotta be hard on you."

"Way harder than you could ever believe," I agreed.

"I know, Jake. Do you get what I mean, though?"

"'Course I do. You wanna get a motel room filled with chocolate and roses and all that, so I can make love to you in style."

"You make me sound shallow," she moaned.

"Bells, I understand what you mean, though," I assured her, looking down at her.

"Well, I'm glad. I just don't wanna be caught."

"Me neither."

"At least we're on the same terms."

She bent down to kiss me, and I knew I could never be without my sweetheart again.


Bella

I left Jacob's house not much longer later that day. I wanted to go back home before Charlie would take me home himself. Ironically, he was pulling in front of Jacob and Billy's house right as I was leaving. He made a swift turn and followed me home.

Shit, I thought. I'm in even more trouble.

I entered the house before Charlie did, and I didn't have much time to explain myself before he came in.

"Just what do you think you were doing there?" he asked as soon as he was in the house.

I opened my mouth, ready to say something not particularly nice in return, but I didn't. "I had to see Jake, Dad. You don't understand."

"Bella, what I do understand is that he is not… good for you now. Remember when—"

"I do remember when he made me upset," I interrupted. "But, Dad, I didn't understand then. I do now, though. He's not going to do that again."

"And how do you know for sure?" Charlie asked. "Bella, I'm only so concerned because of you."

"I know because I can understand now, and you're not even trying to," I replied.

"So what is it that you understand?" he asked, throwing his hands in the air. I flinched. "I don't get it, Bella."

"Well, I can't tell you," I said quickly. "But you're not giving him a chance."

"How am I supposed to give that boy a chance when the last time you went to his house, you came home crying!?"

"I don't know," I replied honestly, "but you have to. You told me I couldn't see him, and I snuck out. Unless you want this happening again, and everyday, then you've gotta let me see him, Dad. I lo—"

"I know, I know, you love him. I just don't want you to get hurt. Can't you see it, Bells? He's different, and I don't like it."

I bit my lip. "I know. But he's only different on the outside. He's still that same kid that you saw grow up. He's just… more grown up, I guess. He's still the same person on the inside, Dad. I wouldn't want to be with him if he wasn't."

"Damn, you really love him, don't you?" I nodded, and Charlie sighed. "Alright. Fine. You can still see him. But if he hurts you again, it's on you for trusting him. Oh, and if you get fired from your job because you haven't been in a week, that's on you, too."

Wow, he's really cutting me loose.

I nodded again and was about to say something, but Charlie interrupted me again.

"And if you're going to be with Jake, I need to be in the room, which will always be here in the living room. And at Jake's house, Billy has to be in the room. Okay?"

No, not okay. "Okay."


The next day was Monday, and Monday meant school. Waking up in my own bedroom without Jacob or sunshine or anything just didn't compare to waking up in bed with Jacob and the sun shining through the curtains. I almost wanted to run away again.

I sighed as I climbed out of bed, but I was eventually ready for the school day. I tried to drag my morning on, but by the time I got to school, I was early—way early.

"Oh my God," I heard someone claim when I stepped out of my truck. Ugh. This was stupid. It wasn't like I was famous or anything.

I ignored whoever said that, and walked into the main building, where I absentmindedly ran into my friend Angela Weber.

"Whoa, Bella!" she exclaimed. "You're alive! Where were you?"

"On spring break," I replied, guarded. "Just like everybody else."

"No, Bella, we all thought you were, like, missing. Mike told us that you said you were going to visit your mom, and we believed him for a little while, but then everyone in town freaked out. Some La Push kid went missing, too."

Oh.

I smiled wryly to myself. "I know. That La Push kid was with me. We're kind of... dating."

Her eyes widened for a bit, but then she smiled. "Well, congratulations. What'd your dad say?"

What? "About what?"

"You being missing, of course."

"Oh." I shrugged. "He didn't like it, but he's kind of forgiven me now. I thought I'd still be on lockdown, but now he's just sort of cut me completely loose. If I mess up, it's my entire fault."

"I guess that's fair."

"Yeah… Did anyone really talk about me when I was gone?"

"Bella, everybody freaked out. It's not everyday when the Chief's daughter goes missing. He looked for you for a little while, and then he stopped. Do you know why?"

I nodded. "I told him not to look for me."

"Why'd you leave?"

I shouldn't have to explain this. People shouldn't even be asking. But then again, why am I ashamed to tell people that I took off with my best friend? I shouldn't be afraid.

"Jacob and I left," I began, "because we just needed to be together." Her facial expression remained the same. "I mean, wouldn't you do the same thing for Ben if he were in trouble?" I added.

"Of course," she replied, "but I wouldn't freak out the entire town."

"Whatever, I guess. What's done is done."

"Right."

Angela stopped at her locker, told me goodbye, and I went to my first class. The rest of the day until lunch went by slowly. Nobody asked me where I was. Nobody cared.

Lunch, however, was a completely different story. Not even in the line to get my food did I get a break from Jessica and Lauren, who all of a sudden cared for me.

"Where were you, Bella?"

"Is everything okay, Bella?"

"Bella, why aren't you answering me?"

"Where. Were. You."

I wasn't planning on answering any of the questions until I sat down at the table, and even as I stood at the salad bar, Jessica's annoying voice with another nosy question managed to scare me once. The red apple in my hands slipped through my fingers and onto the ground. (Huh. No vampires caught it this time.) "Could you not?" I asked a little too loudly, on the verge of insanity.

"Jeez, no need to yell," Jessica mumbled. I followed her and Lauren to our designated lunch table (in which I had been booted from for months), and sat between Angela and Mike.

"So, where were you?" Lauren asked me. "Seriously, Bella. Cut the crap."

I sighed. "I took a road trip. Get over it."

"I bet she was with the La Push kid," Mike muttered.

I turned to him. "He has a name," I told him pointedly. "He's not just some La Push kid. His name is Jacob. Jacob Black."

"Congratulations," Eric said sarcastically. "Really, though, Bella, what if we had plans and wanted you to come along?"

"Exactly," Lauren added. "What if we wanted to, like, get a coffee or something? You were out of town last spring break, too, and you came back with a broken leg."

"I was actually going to ask if you wanted to go shopping," Jessica piped up. "I thought we were friends before you were fucking this Jacob kid."

To put things mildly, that pissed me off.

It took me everything in my power to not punch Jessica—and Lauren, and Eric, and Mike, and everybody else—in the face.

"Wow, that's really fucking something," I said, my eyes intense on Jessica's, "since you never claimed to be my friend or even want to be my friend before now. When I was… you know… depressed, you didn't want to be my friend then, either. What changes things now, Jess? Really. I mean, you didn't give a fuck about me when I was dating Edward, and you didn't give a fuck when I wasn't. You didn't give a fuck until I just left. That doesn't even make sense. It's pretty stupid how you care now. What made you open your eyes and decide to actually be a friend to me? I'm never gonna know, but congrats to you for finally figuring it out. Use your new techniques on someone else. It's been enough."

With that, I got my lunch tray, dumped the food away from it, and left the cafeteria.

Who the hell needs friends when everyone you're surrounded by is fake, anyway? I thought.


I drove home as soon as school was over so I wouldn't have to talk to anybody else, and I felt like a zombie while doing so. I felt so drained, and I shouldn't have. I hadn't felt this dead since last winter. It was spring now, though. It was time to "spring" into action. I chuckled at my own lame pun. My little energy had soon died down, though. I felt like a sleepwalker again soon enough.

As I drove down the familiar road to my house, I wished I hadn't clawed out the radio that had been in my car. All that was left where it used to be was a gap. That gap reminded me of how bad I had been every single day. Maybe I could get Jake to help me put in a new radio. I was tired of living in the past. I was tired of being reminded of how terrible I had been. What was the point in being dragged down in the past? There wasn't one.

I was just about to pull into my spot in the driveway, but I hadn't anticipated on something catapulting itself onto the roof of my car, constructing the metal. I could feel the roof literally caving into me. I couldn't move. I couldn't even breathe.

I could only scream.


To Be Concluded…