A/N #2: October 2018 Edition - HELLO NEW READERS AND OLD! So! I started this story nearly 5 years ago, and I am finally returning to dust off the cobwebs. I want to ensure I'm presenting the best content possible, so I'm gearing up to begin the long process of editing and revising my previous chapters. I would like to apologize in advance for several typos and timeline inconsistencies, as I never had a beta and for some godforsaken reason never re-read my own work. Thank you for your patience while I smash my face into my keyboard (:
For those interested in my other long-forgotten fics, I really would love to finish them all one day, but for now I'm taking things step-by-step! Turns out adulthood offers far less free time than being a high school student, go figure.
"Jump, Bella!" Voices called out bellow me, filled with laughter.
"Yeah, I dare you!" Another voice, this one female, rang up to me.
The wind whipped around my frame, chilly despite the summer heat. It gusted up from the ocean bellow me and smelled strongly of brine and salt. Small copper dots bobbed around below me, and I could barely pick out their feature from here. Two belonged to my best friends, Jake Black and Leah Clearwater. They were the ones laughing and calling out to me. Beside Leah, her brother Seth floated on his back and flashed a thumbs up at me. On Jake's right two of his close friends, Quil and Embry, were splashing one another. This cliff wasn't the tallest, but it was a good twenty five or thirty feet down. I laughed.
"Oh, you dare me, huh?" I joked back. "Well alright then!" I backed up a few paces, before sprinting and vaulting off the edge of the earth. The air rushed up to meet me, cradling my prone and mortal frame. It roared in my ears and to my mind it seemed like a rebuff for being reckless and dumb. My heart though, well it was racing. Like a flipped switch my adrenaline began coursing out and I couldn't help but let a delighted cry slip through my lips. So enraptured was I, my arms and legs didn't even flail. I was entranced by the danger and the speed, utterly comfortable. A twinge in my gut, that odd new one I had grown used to over the last month, seemed to agree with me. Too soon, the water had arrived and it welcomed me with open arms.
The impact jarred only for a moment and then I was below. I let the current carry me for a few moments, eyes open despite the sting of the salt, gazing around me. This still and silent world was equally transfixing as the open air, but eventually my lungs screamed their protest. I looked upward and kicked, breaking the surface to see a round a smiling faces.
Jake swam up to me and clapped me on the back. "And she lives! Ha ha, another survivor. Wanna go again?"
I swept my now damp hair back on my head and wiped water from my eyes. "Ugh, I'd like to but I've gotta go take care of the old man. It's like four, right?"
Quil, who wore a waterproof watch, brought it up to check. "Four o' seven, yeah."
"Damn, can't Charlie just make himself a sandwich?" Leah grumbled, beginning to paddle back towards the shore. We turned to follow her lead.
"Tried once, ended up with a cold hot dog and mustard between a slice of rye and a slice of wonderbread."
"Ew," Leah said, nose scrunched up.
"I'd eat it," Seth said, laughing.
"You'd eat roadkill," Embry mocked, splashing water at the youngest boy.
Back on shore us girls wrung out our long hair and the boys shook like dogs, laughing as they tried to get as much water back on the others as possible. Leah and I just chuckled and rolled our eyes.
"Bella, just call Charlie over here. I'm sure Dad wouldn't mind him staying for Dinner. Burgers and fries?"
I smiled and said, "If it's free food, I don't see why he'd say no. I'll give him a call."
I had left my cell back at Jake's tiny red house. The six of us walked back, barefoot and scantily clad in the warm summer sun. Sun! Here in Forks! Of course we had gone swimming, despite the fact that the water was still springtime-cold. Back on land, however, the sun dappled between the trees and mottled us with light. After spending so much time down here on the Rez this past month even I was starting to look tan. Granted, not as tan as my friends, but tanner. As soon as we rounded the bend and Jake's house came into view the boys took off, racing. Seth fell behind but he was laughing all the same, and Leah and I began laughing too as Embry stuck out a foot, tripped Quil, and sent him rolling in a cloud of dust. The boy came up hacking and coughing.
"Dude!" He cried out indignantly but Jake and Seth and Embry just laughed on.
Leah and I dragged him up by the elbows when we came level with him. "What a dick, huh?" Leah asked with a laugh.
"You got that right! Oh well. Maybe that's why he's been spending so much time with you-know-who lately," Embry scoffed, oblivious to the hurt that flashed in Leah's eyes.
I frowned slightly and, trying to lighten the mood, asked, "Voldemort?"
Leah cracked a smile at that and punched my shoulder lightly, and I knew she appreciated the effort. "Har har," she said dryly. "I doubt it. If Embry had joined team Sam he'd probably have one of those stupid tattoos by now. I think he's just a jerk by nature."
A month ago, at the beginning of the summer, Sam had left Leah for one of her best friends, Emily. None of us knew what had prompted such a sudden decision, just that two days after Emily had returned from college she had a bad encounter with a bear in the woods and when Sam had gone to visit her with his dad, sparks had flown. He came back and broke it off with Leah. Me, being closest to Leah at the time, had swooped in and done my best to pick up the pieces. The result had been she, Jake, Seth, Embry, Quil and I growing closer and closer until we were, as of now, inseparable. Leah used that as justification that the break up hadn't been all bad, but I knew it still hurt her.
Strange thing was, though, that after the break up the young people here at the Rez had kind of started to divide. After Sam had ditched, two other boys named Paul and Jared had, one after the other, gone from at least associating with the others to being glued to Sam's side. They'd barely speak to anyone else now and they'd all gotten these odd, tribal tattoos. Stranger yet, despite showing all signs of a gang or at least trouble in some shape or form, the elders seemed to adore them. The rest of us coped by banding together, and 'we' eventually became 'us' and 'them.'
We walked into Jake's house to find Jake and Embry tussling around the living room, apparently arguing over who had won the race. "I was the first one inside, Black! I won!" Embry growled, trying to get Jake into a headlock, but he was so much smaller than Jake.
"In your dreams, I out ran you since the beginning! Who cares where we ended up, I still smoked you!" Jake tried to flip Embry down to pin him but the smaller boy sent a knee into his gut.
Jake wheezed out, "You little prick, I'll-"
"Alright, boys," an older, raspy voice entered the fray and we all paused to see Billy roll into the kitchen from the back rooms. "Easy now. Don't want anything broken today."
Jake and Embry split and stood, helping each other up as if nothing had ever happened. "Hey Pops, can Charlie eat with us tonight? I'll grill." Billy just smirked at his son, knowing that was code for, 'Can my friends stay longer?'
Billy looked over us all for a moment, wet and dusty and all wearing shitty grins. "Why not. Give 'im a call, then."
Jake grinned and pushed me towards the phone. "I can still walk, ya know," I grumbled good-naturedly. I picked up their old wall phone and dialed my home number into the base, waited as it rang twice.
My dad's gruff voice answered, "Swan residence, Charlie speaking."
"Hey Dad!" I said brightly. "The Black's invited us to stay for burgers and fries. Is that cool with you if we eat with them tonight?"
Charlie chuckled and when he answered a certain amount of his gruffness was gone, softening now that he knew it was me on the line. "Sure, I'd like to see Billy again. Are you staying in the tree house again?"
I smiled at the mention. Three weeks ago the six of us had picked a big old tree off of Jake's property and, log by log, had built a tree house to stand against any other. It even had a loft, the product of my engineering genius. Almost four nights out of the week since at least some of us had slept there. I turned to the others and said, "Charlie wants to know if I'm staying in the tree house?"
Leah laughed and said, "Sure! Let's do it. You guys in?" She asked, turning to the others.
"Sure," Seth grinned.
"I'm down," Jake grinned, and Quil and Embry nodded as well.
"Yeah, I will be," I told Charlie and heard his amused chuckle on the other side.
"Figured. Well, what time do they want me?"
It was decided that Charlie would show in an hour or so. Leah offered to bring me clothes to sleep in so he didn't need to venture into my room (a prospect I knew he found mildly horrifying) but I did ask him to bring my cell phone charger. We had bought seven extension cords and wired them from the house to a power strip inside the tree house so we could hook up projectors and screens, cell chargers and radios if we wanted to. I hung up and turned back to see the others lounging around in front of the TV, flipping through the channels. I laughed and jumped onto the couch, flopping down across Seth, Jake, and Leah's laps.
"Dude!" Leah laughed, trying to roll me onto the floor.
"Nope!" I crowed, rolling over to wrap my arms around her neck while my legs twined around Seth's waist, pinning Jake between us all.
"Dammit Leah, you made her go all... anaconda on us!"
"Don't blame me for this!" Leah grumbled, still smiling and still trying to push me away, though it was more halfhearted now.
"Dog pile!" Quil and Embry called out and with no warning besides that, launched themselves on top of me. Three simultaneous 'umf!'s came from the three bellow me, and despite the newly found pressure on my lungs, I couldn't help but laugh along with the two boys proudly sitting atop us all.
"You break that couch and you're all hand building a new one!" Billy said with a good humor and we all smiled. I released suddenly and rolled onto the floor, taking Quil and Embry down with me.
"Oww!" Quil moaned.
"The dangers of dog piles!" I said with a shrug.
Some might think that almost thirty burgers was a bit much for only eight people, but those some people had never eaten in the Black household. Jake was a black hole when it came to food. I could easily it two burgers, so could Leah. Seth, Billy, and Charlie might put away three, and Quil and Embry could do four. Jake? He got all the rest. It was amazing and horrifying to watch him eat, really. It was only recently that I had grown truly worried, and that was only because Quil and Embry were beginning to follow the same pattern Jake had. Sudden growth spurts, gaining muscle, all that. Jake stood at a whopping six feet and five inches, but at the beginning of the summer he could barely reach six on a good day. I truly feared for the Black's grocery bill.
"So what'd you do today, Bells?" Charlie asked around a bite of food. I didn't bother to swallow or even stop chewing because I knew the others would answer for me.
"First we were down at the creek catching fish, but Leah caught the most," Seth answered.
"'En we wen' 'iking up tofha m'dow an' raced 'oads," Quil mumbled through a mouth of food.
"What?" Charlie asked, brows knit.
"We raced toads," Leah answer, more eloquently.
Charlie paused for a moment then reiterated, "What?" He chuckled too, obviously finding it amusing.
"It was Bella's idea!" Jake defended. "Figures too, seeing as she won."
I just shrugged and raised my hands in mock surrender. "What can I say! I am a master of... toads." I crinkled my nose up and laughed.
"After we played frisbee on the beach, then went cliff diving," I finished up.
"Cliff diving, eh," Charlie grumbled. He knew I went diving, though he was under the assumption that we only jumped from the low ones, no more than ten feet. He was wrong of course, but if he grumbled about the tens he would have a fit if he knew about the twentys and thirtys. We kept that bit secret.
"Hello, still in one piece here!" I said, rolling my eyes.
"That doesn't mean you'll be so-"
"Who wants desert?" Billy interjected with a smile, knowing that an old argument was about to rear it's ugly head. "We've got apple pie and ice cream."
Charlie did all but perk his ears up, and his attention was fully diverted. "Both, please."
I just laughed quietly and shook my head.
"So whats the plan for tomorrow?" I asked.
"Dunno," Leah said with a shrug. "Wanna work on that fixer-uper project we were talking about?"
Jake, Seth, Quil, and Embry smiled and I sensed we had a winner. "Hell yeah," I said, smiling as well.
Another little secret my dad didn't know of were the three bikes Jake had picked up on the sly from a friend of his, which he, Leah, and I were repairing. The others were along for the ride, seeing as they didn't have bikes of their own, but they loved to hang around and help. We were nearly done too, only a few tweaks here and there before we painted and then they were done.
"Maybe we could even finish, who knows," Jake said with a smile.
For all that Charlie was a cop, he could be very oblivious when it was most convenient. For example right now his father senses should be blaring, sirens going off that something was up, but instead his gaze was fixed on whatever sport flashed across the TV. I smiled and turned back to Jake. "Yeah, hopefully."
After dinner we all filed out of the house and in the sunset light headed to the tree house. We were up into the wee hours of the morning, all half in and half out of our sleeping bags which formed a circle of sorts. A lantern, set on dim light, stood in the middle of us and cast pale light and dark shadows all around the wooden walls. We told ghost stories, though most of them were repeats by now, and old jokes too. We made plans for the rest of the summer, things we wanted to do such as build another tree house somewhere nearby so we could play ultimate capture the flag, maybe. We wanted to go paint balling and wanted to spend a few days out camping with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Finally Seth fell asleep, with Quil on on his heels. Leah was out soon after and so was Embry. Finally, just Jake and I remained, drowsily mumbling to one another about school next year. The school on the Rez would be shutting down for repair and the kids would instead be attending Forks High, which was my school.
Finally Jake yawned and mumbled, "'Night, Bells. See ya in the morning."
When I woke up, I immediately knew that something was wrong. Jake was shifting, rolling around in his bag, moaning. I sat up and wiped the sleep from my eyes, then paled. Jake was covered in a sickly pallor, his face a milky representation of his usual bronze, and he tossed and turned without waking up. I quickly lay a hand across his forehead and gasped, only to find he was burning with fever.
"Aw, shit! Leah!" I said, turning and shaking her awake.
"Wha? Whazzat?" She mumbled and I shook her again.
"Jake's sick," I said before sliding out of my bag and shaking the others up as well.
I turned around as the other boys were shaking out their hair and rubbing their eyes to find Leah coaxing some cool water into a bleary eyed but conscious Jake.
"We've got to get him down," I said.
"The pulley?" Leah asked. "Might work."
We had used a platform of sheet metal and ropes to haul logs and planks up to build, though it now sat inert on the roof seeing as building was done. There were no walls but Jake was in no state to climb down on his own and none of us would be able to carry him.
"Only if someone rode down with him." I turned to Seth and said, "Go wake Billy."
Seth nodded and without a word zipped down the ladder.
"I'm lightest, I'll go down with him and make sure he doesn't fall. Quil, Embry, stay up here and work the ropes. Leah, can you meet me at the bottom to help get him up and moving?"
They all nodded and without argument went to their jobs. The boys re-rigged the pulley and after Leah and I hoisted the gargantuan boy to his feet, we shuffled him out to the little platform outside to see the sheet metal ready and waiting. Rope attached to all four corners and I couldn't help but reexamine the knots with a quick eye. Quil and Embry stood at the ready, each holding a rope for one of the sides.
"Alright, let's get him on," I grumbled to Leah, gritting my teeth against Jake's weight. He was still only semi-lucid and wasn't helping much.
I stepped shakily onto the platform first and pulled as Leah more or less pushed Jake onto my lap. I held his moaning form still and gave Quil and Embry a thumbs up when I felt stable enough. They slowly began to lower us and I tried my best not to think of all the loads of wood we'd tipped and had to re-pile for a second try. I figured it'd be harder to re-pile Jake and I. Finally, and not soon enough, we bumped down onto solid earth, Leah was there waiting to help me get Jake on his feet and Quil and Embry weren't far behind.
Seth ran up, slightly panting and said, "Billy's got Dad coming with the truck to take Jake to the tribe doctor."
"Great," I grunted under Jake's weight.
"Here, we'll get him," Quil and Embry said, worry showing in the lines of their faces.
Jake was moved as quickly as possible and we did indeed find Harry waiting on the road with the truck. "Get him up here, boys." Harry said with a frown. We knew he meant the truck bed because he and Billy sat up front. Quil, Leah, Seth, and I helped Embry get him up and in. "Alright Embry, come on. The rest of you, thanks, but we'll take it from here."
"What?" Seth asked, bewildered. "But Dad-"
"No buts, Seth. You know how small Jim's house is, just no room for all of you. Besides, Sam is there now, he'll be able to help us."
Before we could protest the truck rumbled away, leaving a bewildered Embry in the back, and the rest of us bewildered on the side of the road.
"Of course Sam is there, all cozy with the elders," Quil said with a sneer. "Jake's gonna hate waking up to that."
Leah had a deep frown on her face and sighed. I turned to her with my brows drawn questioningly and she just shook her head, finally saying, "It's just weird."
"That Your dad practically just kidnapped Jake? A little, yeah."
"Well that, but also the fact that what Jake is sick with, it seems like it was the same thing Sam had right before... well, the incident."
I frowned and said, "Yeah. Hey, weren't Paul and Jared sick too before they joined Team Sam?"
Seth blinked and said, "What, they bonded in their sick beds or something?"
"I don't know, it's just weird." I shrugged. We turned back to the tree house to grab our things and then one by one headed home.
A/N: Whadya think? :D This was mostly intro. Next chapter: Enter Cullen Clan!
I would really appreciate reviews to let me know what you all think (: Thanks, and I love you all!