A/N: YOU GUYS! It's been, like, eleven days since I've last published anything. I was about to lose myself. But, I've been working super-super-super(!) hard on this conclusion to the Youth Knows No Pain series (is that what that is?). I've realized that this is probably my favorite Jella I've written (besides in Conversing Hearts, maybe), and it's time to finally leave these two alone. This was fun to write, but it took so long, leaving it at over 11,000 words long. It could be a multi-chapter story on its own. Damn. And oh my GOD, this is kind of the first time I've written anything even that close to citrusy. I'm sorry if it's not as flawless as other citrusy things are. Well, here it is. I hope you'll enjoy reading this just as much as I've enjoyed writing it. If you enjoy, tell me what you think - I love reviews so much. And, Josh, this is for you.

Youth Knows No Pain, Part III

"Silent My Song"


"So come on, honey, cut yourself to pieces. Come on, honey, give yourself completely."

I absentmindedly tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of a song that played on the radio. I didn't know what the song was, or who it was by, but it was on an indie station and it was catchy. I wondered if Bella would like the song.

I was driving home from school, and I was going to see Bella right after. I only had to stop at my place for one last thing.

Once I got home, I made a beeline to my bedroom. I could have danced into my house; that's how happy I was. I had a gift for Bella, and I was excited to give it to her. It was like I was a little kid on Christmas morning, only I would be giving someone else a present.

Sitting in a drawer on the farthest side of my room was the little black box that I'd had prepared for such a long time now. Bella would love what was in it. I just knew she would.

I held the box tightly and made my way back to the Rabbit. I whistled the unknown song on the radio to myself as I started the car up, the engine purring. I stowed the box away in the glove department and started making my way to Bella's house. I was so eager to see my honey.

As I approached the house that I knew like the back of my hand, I thought I smelled something… off. I tried to ignore, though. Nothing could ruin my mood. Not even—

Bella's truck smashed in at the top?

Fucking bloodsuckers.


My hand clamped to my mouth and my teeth gripped onto my finger were the only things that kept me from screaming,

I couldn't help but silently sob as I crawled around the floor of my house, trying not to make too much noise. I couldn't let him find me. I needed to call someone. I needed to do something.

I hadn't known that Edward was going to return. I hadn't known that he was going to corner me in my truck.

I hadn't known he was going to try to hurt me. Not again.

He'd dragged me to the side of the house only a few minutes ago. I was still shaken by it. I was even more shaken by how I'd gotten away. Thank God I knew how to use a lighter, and there had been one down in the grass by my neighbors' yard.

I'd thought I'd known pain before this, but as I carefully folded myself in a cabinet underneath the sink in the kitchen, I knew I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I hadn't known pain until I'd had to set my ex-boyfriend on fire.

I hadn't been thinking. I'd just grabbed the lighter, lit it, and threw it at Edward. I hadn't expected it to actually touch him. And as of now, I could hear his tortured cries and gasps from the side of the house. He'd been screaming like that for minutes now. I didn't even know where I'd thrown the lighter on him, and I'd never known how flammable vampires really were.

I just wanted him to burn to death now. There was nothing I wanted more than that.

…Well, there was one thing.

I needed Jacob. My Jacob.

I gave up on the quiet act and finally broke down in the cabinet. My ugly sobs droned through the empty house. I wasn't small enough for the cabinet door to close all the way, so it was pretty much useless, and I didn't care. I just needed Jacob. I needed his warmth… his protection. I wasn't built for this kind of pressure or stress—I'd already survived one vampire attack and I didn't deserve to go through another. What had I even done to deserve this? Was this the consequence of falling in love with my best friend? Or was it his consequence of falling in love with me? Jacob couldn't have been the dangerous one in this relationship—he'd never put me in danger before.

It was me. All me. I was a danger magnet, and not even Jacob could change that.

If I was even just a little bit more in my own thoughts, I wouldn't have heard the commotion going on outside, but I did. I stopped crying—stop breathing, stop moving, stop thinking, stop everything—and braced myself for what was to come. I pushed my knees to my torso and tried to close the cabinet door as much as I could.

You're okay, I lied to myself. Jacob's going to save you. You're okay.

A peculiar little thought continued to dance in the back of my mind, thought. It sounded a lot like, you're going to die.


I should've heard the bloodsucker yelling up a storm at the side of Bella's house, but surprisingly, I hadn't. I did now, though.

I jumped out of the Rabbit and phased on the fly, sprinting to the noise and smell. In no time I was faced with a familiar bronze-haired bloodsucker. It was the motherfucking Cullen. He was slumped against the side of the house, and his right arm was on fire.

I growled and lunged for him. I had him right there and was so prepared to rip him to pieces until—


He shoved me away with his left arm, the force of a truck slapping me back a few yards. More yards than I expected.

I roared at him and cursed at him in my mind. What the fuck do YOU want? I demanded, snarling at him.

His golden eyes ablaze, just like his arm, he growled at me in return. He was too pissed for words.

But had Bella set him on fire like that?

Before I could even think or do anything else, a flash of white dashed through the trees behind the house, and I was pinned.

I was also face to face with another bloodsucker. I couldn't see if it was a guy or a girl, red eyes or gold eyes. It was just an enemy and I had to be rid of it.

I thrashed and thrashed under it, and I knew I wasn't going to make it. I couldn't give up, though. I couldn't. This was for Bella.

Bella! I thought frantically. Where the hell was she? Was she okay? If I could get away from this reeking leech then—


The weight of the vampire was off of me, and thoughts that weren't my own were going through my head. The loudest voice was Sam's.

We've got you, Jake.

I immediately leapt back up to get a perspective on all of this, and what seemed like a thousand different voices were running through my mind. In my peripheral visions, I could see that everybody was here… Sam, Paul, Jared, Embry, and myself.

Edward had also acquired some allies. A short girl with spiky dark brown hair and a tall blond guy stood at either side of Edward, his arm still scorching.

Paul leapt to attack before Sam could tell him to do anything, but—

"What the hell is going on here!?"


With the lighter I'd used against Edward clutched to my hand, I made my way back to the side of the house. Everything had fallen silent, and I couldn't bear to stay inside.

Carefully edging to the side of the house, I stopped breathing when I got there and tried to make some comprehension out of what I was seeing. There were just a few things wrong with this picture. For one thing, there was a standoff between three vampires and five wolves going on in my yard, only they were just staring at each other. And for another thing, Charlie was in the middle of them.

And he had his pistol out.

He turned and turned in circles, not knowing who to point at or what to do, and I raced to him before he could make a decision.

"Dad!" I yelled. "What are you doing here?"

His face was purple and he looked like he was going to pass out. "What… what is…?" he asked faintly.

"Go in the house, Dad," I said quietly. "Please."

"No, Bella, what the hell is—"

"I said, go in the house."

Jacob—only as a reddish-brown and huge wolf—started approaching me with apologetic eyes, and I put my hand out. "No," I whispered.

I gulped and turned to Edward (his arm still on fire) and his companions, who were Alice Cullen and Jasper Hale.

They came to kill me, too?

I took a deep breath before I could break down again.

Edward held out his good hand out to me, as if I would go running after him in forgiveness, and that was the last thing I wanted to do.

You know what I really wanted to do?

I wanted to kill him. I wanted to set his entire body on fire to make him feel as bad as I had. I wanted to be a vampire right at this instant—just for this moment—so I could scare him shitless and tell him that I didn't want him anymore and I did not need him.

"Bella," Edward began, "I—"


It was like it was all happening in slow motion: Charlie shot the gun once, the bullet flew straight into Edward's chest, and it cracked into a thousand little pieces, all of them bouncing off of him and onto the grass.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Three more bullets. Three more collections of metal dropping to the ground.

"I told you to go in the house, Dad," I whispered.

I hadn't expected for Edward, Jasper, and Alice to leave, but eventually, they did. The wolves followed them until the treaty line, and I stayed at home, trying to calm Charlie down. Jacob came back to my house, though. He always came back for me.

I couldn't say anything to him, though.

Charlie was just about to shoot him, too, once I opened the front door, but he didn't. I had to plead for him not to. He must have been stronger than I'd thought; he hadn't even passed out yet. Charlie sat down in his reclining chair. I asked him if he wanted anything, and he said no, but I insisted that he have a glass of water. He didn't refuse.

After getting Charlie his water, I went back to the kitchen. Leaning against the counter, I was about to pass out myself.

Charlie was silent in the living room, and I heard footsteps leading into the kitchen. I looked up, and there was Jacob, in all of his skyscraper-like, tall glory. He wore cutoff shorts and sneakers, but no shirt. I couldn't succumb to his abs right now, though—I couldn't succumb to anything.

"Hey," he murmured.

"Hey," I replied.

We were silent for a while, but then we spoke at the same time. "I'm sorry."

I was too lifeless to even find the humor. "You first," I told him.

"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. I'm doing such a shitty job at this."

"It's not your fault," I assured him. "It's mine."

"It's not, honey. And besides, he's gone. So are the leeches with him."

"I don't want him just gone," I said, gritting my teeth. "I want him dead."

"I know, honey… I know."

He put his hand in my hair and brought me to his chest. I kept my forehead at his bare chest and inhaled deeply. He smelled like… like the woods and leather and boy and something else that I couldn't name. At least, not for a little while. I figured it out, though.

He smelled like home.

I wanted to sob into his chest like the immature child I truly was on the inside, but I didn't. I was tired of crying over things I couldn't control. I'd just escaped this episode safely—crying wouldn't do anything good for me. I needed to be mature about all of this, and this would help.

I pulled away and looked up at him.

"You okay?" he asked.

I took a deep breath, nodded, and gave him a little smile. "Mm-hmm."

If only he knew that another part of maturity was lying to make others feel better.


Gathered at Sam and Emily's house, half of the pack treated this as if nothing had happened, and the other half treated this like it was the biggest moment of their lives. I was just entering the house when I realized that the party had already started.

Jared took a bite into the muffin he had in his hand and laughed. "That was incredible," he said enthusiastically.

"Nah, it was nothing,'" Embry replied. "We didn't even get any kills."

"We will if they come back," Paul said.

"If they do," Sam spoke up. "They said they wouldn't be back."

"Hi, Jake," Emily Young—Sam's fiancée—called to me once I took a seat. At least she noticed I was here.

"That was crazy, wasn't it?" Jared asked me.

I raised an eyebrow. "Sure. Hey, uh, Sam?"

Sam looked at me. "What?"

"How can you guarantee they won't be back?" I wondered. "They weren't on our land—they were just in Forks."

"I already told them," he replied. "If they even come back to Forks, let alone here, they'll be killed. They agreed."

"Well, why don't we just find them now?" I demanded. "What are we even waiting for?"

"They're not in Forks," Paul reminded me. "Cool it."

"Who are you to tell me to cool it?" I asked him angrily. "You nearly killed Bella, too, just like the parasites!"

The room fell silent.

"Sam, this doesn't make any damn sense," I said. Why wasn't he answering me?

"It's not like you imprinted on her," Embry said. "Get over it."

Get over it? How the hell am I supposed to just get over it!?

"Shut the hell up," I told Embry. "You don't get it."

"Yeah, I do," Embry replied. "You're playing this shit off like you imprinted on her. You never even came close to imprinting on Bella. She's not worth it. I'm telling you right now, Jake, the bitch is trouble and you can do better."

I leaned across the table and punched him square in the jaw. It made a huge cracking noise. "Fuck off," I said. "You don't know anything."

Embry adjusted his jaw and put it back in place like nothing even happened, and he leaned back in his chair. "Go ahead," he told me. "Keep denying it. When you get killed because of her—"

"Stop," Sam commanded. "Grow the hell up."

"Well, what are we gonna do?" I asked. "The girl I love is in danger and you're not doing anything."

"Embry's right—you never imprinted on her."

"Maybe I should've, huh? I guess losing your damn mind to some magic crap is worth it, right?"

"Stop it, Jake."

"Sam, you're the shittiest Alpha on the planet."

"Alright. Anything else?"

I sighed. Nothing ever worked for me. I guessed it was time to get used to it, though this constant thought ate and ate at the back of my brain… "Pass me the damn muffins, please."

The next day was quiet—and intense. I hadn't seen or talked to Bella all day, so I guessed she'd gone to school. Hell, I was too worried to go to school myself. My dad tried to entertain me that Tuesday. His lame jokes had used to be funny when I'd been twelve… not anymore, though.

Embry came over at around noon with the latest pre-owned video game he'd bought (some fight game from the eighties), as a sort of peace offering to me for insulting the girl I went crazy for. Just because I was won over with the game didn't mean I accepted his apology, though. The funny thing was, he didn't even mention it. Maybe he didn't want me to forgive him.

Embry was still at my house by the time I got a phone call. I was in the middle of a match, and boy, when the phone rang, I made a mad dash to it.

It was just the person that I wanted it to be.

"Hey, Jake," Bella greeted me.

"God, it's so good to hear your voice again," I sighed.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say the same," she replied. "How was your day?"

"Long and terrible," I said. "Yours?"

"Same. I stayed home with my dad. He's still shaken up over things."

"Wow, I stayed home, too."

"Sorry," she said. "I should have called you, but things have been… intense. I think Charlie's mad at me, but I can't be sure."

"It's okay," I told her. "I just miss you—a lot."

"I miss you, too, Jake. Anyway, I was calling because I wanted to know if you wanted to come over for dinner… Well, okay, this isn't an offering. Charlie wants you to come over. He wants to talk to us."

"You sure he doesn't want to shoot me? Bullets can't bounce off me, Bells. I'm not Superman." I chuckled.

"That's so not funny!" she said. "I ought to hit you for that, Jacob Black."

I chuckled again. "I'm willing to take a beating."

"I'm serious, though; you need to come over for dinner. And bring your dad, too. Maybe my dad won't be so angry with me if he has a friend next to him."

"Alright. I'll be there in half an hour."

"Thanks, Jake."

"No problem, honey. I love you."

"I love you, too."

I hung up and made my way to my bedroom, whistling. Things were back on.

"Where're you going?" Embry called.

"Take a guess!" I called back.

He sighed. "I guess this match is mine."

"Yup. It's all yours."

Billy and I were driving down to Forks in almost no time. I probably drove faster than I should have. Billy didn't seem to mind, though… at least, not on the drive.

I was getting him into his wheelchair when he acknowledged my excitement. "Calm down, Jake," he said. "I know you love her, but jeez."

"Sorry, Dad," I replied wryly.

"Just don't do anything I wouldn't do later tonight," he warned.

"That doesn't leave me with many options, you know."

He chuckled, and the conversation ended as Charlie and Bella met us outside right that moment. Charlie greeted Billy kind of awkwardly (as if to say, you know your kid hangs out with huge dogs, right?) and started wheeling him into the house.

Bella nearly pounced on me with a hug, wrapping her arms tightly around my waist. She looked up at me and smiled. God, she got more beautiful every single day.

"I fucking love you," I told her.

She shushed me. "Don't let my dad hear you dropping F-bombs. That's not going to make things any easier."

"I just want him to know I love you."

She nodded. "I think you already proved that."

"I'll let everyone know it," I said proudly. "I fucking love Bella Swan!"

"Hey," Charlie said in a warning tone from the front door.

Bella smacked me in the arm. "I told you!"

"Sure, sure," I said with a smirk. I held her small hand in mind and then grinned. "You ready?"

She nodded again. "Mm-hmm."

"Sorry I couldn't come up with anything elaborate," Bella said sheepishly as she set down plates of food in front of Charlie and Billy. "Will this do?"

"You already cooked it," Billy replied. "It's fine."

"Steak and potatoes are great," I said, getting up to get myself a plate. "Fancy, too."

"Ha, ha," Bella said sarcastically. "Thanks, Jake."

"Seriously," I replied. Then I licked my lips. "Anything you make is delicious," I said in a lower voice.

Someone at the table cleared their throat uncomfortably. Bella smacked me in the arm. Easy, she mouthed. Then she handed me a plate of food and made her own. I sat down at the table, across from Billy, and Bella sat on my right, across from Charlie.

"So," Billy started, "how's school?"

"It's going pretty well," Bella replied. She turned to me. "How's school for you?"

I shrugged after taking a bite of steak. "It's alright."

There was an awkward silence as everyone ate, and the air was so thick. Charlie didn't even look at me and Bella; he just had his eyes down at his steak and potatoes.

"Dad?" Bella asked. "Didn't you want to, um, talk to us?"

Under the table, I crossed my left hand to her left hand, and gave her a squeeze. She turned and gave me a small smile, and then she looked at her dad again. "Didn't you?" she asked again.

"I'm not sure what to say," he finally said.

"Well, how do you feel?" Bella asked.

Charlie had a thoughtful expression for a moment, and then he sighed. "I… I don't know how I feel. I mean, for one thing, I just saw some very large dogs in our yard yesterday, and… and… your ex-boyfriend's arm was on fire. And when I shot him—"

"I know," Bella interrupted. "I saw."

"What the hell is going on?" Charlie asked with his head cocked to the side.

"Charlie, you don't live in the world you think you live in," Billy began easily.

"But what does that even mean?" Charlie demanded. "I'm so confused."

"I know this is probably the wrong place and time to talk about this," I said, "but this is my life. I'm stuck with it."

"Me, too," Bella added. "Things are really confusing right now, and you just—"

"This isn't right," Charlie interrupted. "Can't you see it?"

"Who are you to judge what's right and wrong?" Bella asked with her eyebrows furrowed. "I have to deal with this. You're not even trying to understand."

"I can understand that this is bad, Bella, and you can't live like this anymore."

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"I don't want you around my daughter anymore," he told me sternly. "Simple as that."

"Charlie, listen—" Billy began.

"No," Charlie replied, standing up. "I'm not going to deal with this anymore. When you—" he pointed at me—"leave tonight, I don't want you to ever come back. You hear me?"

"Dad!" Bella said angrily. "What the hell are you—"

"I made up my mind," he said. "And that's final."

"No, it's not!" She stood up and walked around to him. "You're treating me like some sort of child and that's not fair."

"Well, look here, Bella—you are my child."

"I'm sure as hell not anymore."

"I think it's time for us to leave," Billy said.

"I think so, too," Charlie agreed, his face red. "We're done here."

Bella looked over to me with a look of frustration, and I didn't know what to do. Well, shit. For once, I didn't know what to do. I did know that I sure as hell didn't want Charlie shooting me tonight, though.

I stood up and started helping my dad to the door. Before I did, however, I turned to Bella and whispered. "Call me."

She nodded. Love you, she mouthed.

Love you.


"What was that!?" I demanded as soon as Jacob and Billy were out of the door. "I mean, I made a damn meal, hoping for a decent night, and you just had to ruin it."

Charlie plopped down into his recliner. "It's been enough."

I threw my hands into the air. "What are you even saying?"

"Bella, you hid things from me, and for how long? I'm your father. I'm supposed to know all this stuff…" He took a deep breath. "No matter how weird it may be."

"Dad," I whined. "It was only to protect you. How many times do I have to say it?"

"No, Bella, you lied. I mean, I saw all of that yesterday." He gulped. "And when I shot Edward, nothing happened… What else am I supposed to do about this?"

"This is my life now," I murmured. "It's not good for you."

"Maybe Jacob isn't good for you."

"No!" I yelled. "You're not pulling this again. You saw what happened, Dad. That was not Jacob's fucking fault!"

"I didn't raise you to talk to me like that!" he shouted.

"You didn't raise me at all!" I hollered. "You're just being an ass because you can't call the shots anymore. And you don't understand, Dad. That is the worst thing you could do."

He put his hands in the air. "Alright. Since I don't understand, then you don't need to be in this house." He stood up and pointed to the door. "Get out of my house."

"Don't be stupid," I replied.

"You've been disrespectful to me since you first ran off with that bastard Jacob. Look at you, Bells—you've changed. You're not good anymore. You're always mouthing off like an adult."

"If you haven't noticed," I said, "I am an adult. And you know what? I may have changed. Fine. But I'd rather be changed and more independent now than how weak I was before. We can't have two weak people in this house."

"If you're so much stronger, then why don't you leave?"

I glared at him. "Fine. Let me go pack. I'll just take everything since I'm too much of a disrespectful bitch for you to handle." I went to the staircase, and as I ascended it, I called to Charlie, "Mom was right. You really are a shit excuse for a parent."

That would teach him. I hoped.

The frustration wore off quickly and was replaced with anger.

I was just pissed.

Nearly knocking over a lamp as I dashed through my bedroom, I threw various articles of clothing into my bag. I wasn't even looking at what anything was. I just needed clothes and money and a way to get the fuck out. I was tired of running—tired of being angry, tired of being misunderstood, tired of waiting to be with Jacob—and I was just almost out of energy. I was sick of running, but here I was. I was still running. I called Jacob (he was still driving home, so I had to leave a message) and told him to pack his bags and come here. We would be leaving yet again. Maybe this time we wouldn't come back. I was pretty sure I wouldn't.

I couldn't sit still in my room. I was so flustered; I became a tornado, only putting things in order instead of destroying them. My room was nearly spotless by the time Jacob came back, and before I knew it, I was about to leave. I looked out my window and could see the edge of the Rabbit. I quickly took a look at myself in my full-length mirror, and I didn't like what I saw.

I'd learned one of many things very quickly after starting a romantic relationship with Jacob, and that thing was that I didn't have to hide anymore. There was no point in hiding myself—or hiding from myself. I didn't have to hide underneath big, baggy clothes. I didn't have to feel gross or like a little boy. I wanted to feel like a woman. Didn't I at least deserve that?

I quickly changed from my sweatshirt and into a more fitted long-sleeved shirt. No, I wasn't dressing like this for Jake; I was dressing like this to feel good. I'd never been big on fashion, but now I had a reason to look nice. I'd discovered myself, and it felt so good. It was long past time to look better, stand up straighter, and be stronger. If I'd been like this last September, I wouldn't have been so lost without Edward.

Taking two stairs at a time and managing not to break my ankles, I flew out of the front door like hell's army was chasing me. I didn't even have to tell Charlie goodbye; he would know by the sound of the front door slamming.

I didn't hug Jake this time—there wasn't any room for that. I threw my bag into the backseat and slid in the passenger's seat. "Let's just go," I said.


What the fuck am I even doing right now?

Okay, I knew the answer to that: I was getting away (again) with the love of my life. I was supposed to be far past worrying. I didn't need to think or be anxious about anything. I was supposed to be past feeling pain, and I sort of was. Pain was only something that could be brought on by myself. It was just a ghost of what used to overcome me.

But what was I supposed to do when the girl I was in love with was so overwhelmed with pain, and was also sitting right next to me with tears in her eyes?

"I'm sorry, honey," I said. We were always telling each other we were sorry—it was ridiculous, but in the end it always worked.

Only this time, she didn't apologize back. All she told me was, "I know."

We didn't make it as far as Seattle this time; we ended up at a hotel in Port Angeles, right on the beach. Bella picked it out, which was why it was so nice.

Bella must have been here before at some point (I didn't even know, okay?), because she led me to the front desk like she knew exactly where it was. As she got us checked in, I wrapped my arms around her waist and nuzzled myself to her. I didn't care that we were in public; I loved her, and I wanted everyone to know it. Especially her.

Once we were checked in at a room on one of the upper floors, she sighed and sat down on the queen-sized bed. Tears filled up in her eyes again, and I wrapped my arms around her. "You okay?" I asked, even though I knew she wasn't.

She whimpered and pulled away. Her eyes were red and her bottom lip quivered. All of this made me want to cry. She shook her head. "No," she replied.

"How can I make you feel better?"

She thought on it for a moment, and then started peeling off her top, parting her thighs in anticipation. "Make me forget," she whispered. "That would help."



I helped with the rest of her clothes, and she leaned back against the pillows, slightly (and effectively) biting her lip—just waiting for me to take her—and watched me remove my own clothes. I quickly fumbled for a condom in my bag, and eventually found one. I rolled it on quickly and descended onto the bed, and her body.

I held her hips and started kissing her neck, slow and deep. She tasted so damn good.

At first she sighed, and then she kind of squirmed. "God, Jake," she said, working her hands around so much that I was about to explode. Fuck. "Hurry," she told me. "I'm ready."

Well, she never wanted me to hurry before. "You sure?"

She bucked her hips impulsively. "Yes," she whispered. "Yes, I'm sure."

I lowered down onto her some more, and she moaned a little before I pressed my lips to hers. With that first thrust, she dug her fingernails into my back, her tongue twirling against my neck. She murmured sweet little nothings against my skin, and eventually moved her fingertips up to my hair.

We were going okay for a little while—not too rough or anything—but then she whimpered. "Please," she said. "Don't hold back."

So she was basically asking me to fuck the hell out of her. "Tell me if I hurt you, okay?" I murmured.


I brought my lips back down to hers, and did what she told me to do.

"Thanks," she said, once it was all over. She laid next to me, her toes sliding up my leg, her hand in my hair. My hands traced circles over her lower back, and I stared up at the ceiling. What just happened?

"Are you okay?" she asked me.

"I'm okay."

"Do you not…?"

"Do I not what?" I prompted her.

"Do you not feel anything?"

Well, shit. She caught me. "I…" I faltered. "I don't know."

"I mean, it wasn't bad, was it?" she asked.

I shook my head. "Nah," I said dimly.

"Could you look at me?" she asked. "Please, Jake? Don't ignore me like this."

I looked down at her. Those chocolate brown eyes got me every single time, and I didn't mind. I never minded.

"I'm sorry that was so… weird," she said. "I mean, not really weird, but rushed. And I'm sorry I'm—"

"Don't be sorry," I told her. "We're always saying we're sorry."

"I guess," she agreed. "Being sorry is a waste of time, isn't it?"

I nodded. "Totally."

"Then I am one hundred percent not sorry," she clarified.

Only one thought could run through my mind the next day, and that was, what did I do wrong?

Bella didn't talk to me all day. She didn't even touch me. The next morning, I'd woken up alone. She'd up and left me there, and when she'd finally came back, she didn't say anything to me.

We'd eaten breakfast downstairs, and even then she hadn't even spoken to me. She'd never hugged me or held my hand or even smiled at me. Once breakfast was over, she'd just sit on the corner of her bed with her nose stuck in a book.

There were only a million things I wanted to ask her.

Could you just talk to me? Don't you know how much this hurts me, Bella? Don't you know how much you're worrying me? Was it something I said? Something I've done? Is this about last night? Would you want me to change? What would you change about me just so you can feel better? You're killing me, but I need you. Don't you get it? I need you. You're the only thing that makes me sane, and you're the only thing that makes me not worry. Please… Let yourself open up.

I'd never been one to hold back; I always spoke my mind. Bella, though… she had me on thin ice. I didn't want to mess with her. I just wanted to understand. Weren't we supposed to be past the point of misunderstanding, anyway?

Please, Bella. Open up.

Bella never opened up until nightfall, and that was when all her true colors came spilling out, painting a giant mess of what we were.

All I did was ask her what was wrong, and I was about to know.

"This is all wrong," she told me, setting her book down. She turned to face me as we were both placed on the bed. She was cross-legged and I was reclined.

"Can you explain that for me?" I asked. "I can't read minds."

She rolled her eyes. "Isn't it obvious, Jake? I've messed up everything."

I shook my head. "You always blame yourself, Bells. When will you understand that not everything is your fault?"

"When will you grow up?" she asked, bewildered. "Come on, Jake. Let's be real here."

"I'm one hundred percent real," I said sternly. "I've always been."

She didn't move a muscle. She didn't even blink. "Well, what I'm saying is, I've ruined my dad. I've ruined everything we've ever had, and there's no way I can bring that back."

"You just have no hope," I protested. "You haven't tried."

"My dad doesn't try, either!" she shouted. "Look, my dad is not your dad. My dad actually cares, and I've just ruined everything. I'm a fucking idiot for this."

"Honey, no you're not an idiot." I reached out for her hand and she smacked it away. She stood up and ran a hand through her hair. "Look at you!" she said, exasperated. "You need to grow up."

"What the hell are you even saying, Bella?" I asked, sitting up. "I don't get it."

"Of course you don't. Dammit, Jake, you're a kid! You don't have any cares whatsoever and you don't take anything seriously! You've never worried about a thing and now you're looking at me like I'm your favorite person in the world."

She is so unaware of how much I love her.

"I'm a total idiot for all of this," she went on, "and you can't even tell me."

"You're not supposed to insult the people you love, Bella. That's not how things work, and I'm not gonna do that. That reeking bloodsucker may have insulted you when you were with him, but—"

"Leave him out of this!" she hollered.

And there was silence.

I looked down at the pattern on the comforter. What was I even supposed to say? She wanted me to be angry with her, but I couldn't find the strength to do that. I just couldn't.

"Look at me," she whispered.

I kept my eyes down.

"Jake, look at me. Please."


She took my jaw in her hand and brought my face up so I could stare at her. "Look at me, dammit," she spat. "Please just grow up."

I slowly took her hand away from my face and held it in both of my hands. "You really think me calling you stupid would make me grow up?" I asked, my voice cracking a bit.

"Can't you just admit that I'm wrong for once?" she asked softly. "I keep telling this to myself, and it's annoying when nobody else will tell me."

I shook my head. "Bella, you're not stupid. You can do some stupid things, but you are not stupid. I couldn't love you if you changed."

She continued to look down at me. She was silent.

"But I'm not a kid," I added. "If you still think I am, then you're sadly mistaken. And you know something?"

"What?" she whispered inaudibly.

"I never worry because I know you would worry enough for the both of us. I thought you'd appreciate that… Guess I was wrong." I let go of her hand and stood up, making my way to my bag. I unzipped it and pulled out the small, black box I'd had for days now.

I went back to Bella, took her hand, and rested the box there. She curled her fingers around it.

"This wasn't the way I planned on showing you this," I said, "but I guess it doesn't matter. Isn't this the mature thing to do? Not opening up to someone else's feelings for you?"

Her knuckles turned paler than ever as she gripped the box. She stared up at me, biting her bottom lip, and I knew she hated me even more at this given moment. It became easier and easier to read her these days. She was mad at me—she was frustrated with me because I was giving emotions and not just saying yes to everything.

And that was one of the worst things I could have done.

I felt so, so sorry. After a while, I reached out to hug her (she loves my hugs), but she pushed me away with her fist, right in the stomach. She looked down at her fist and just shook her head, rubbing circles on her own skin. "Don't," she whispered.

That was good.

That was fine.

So much for trying to apologize for something I didn't have to do in the first place.

The next morning, Bella didn't talk to me—again. This really sucked. I hadn't thought she'd ever ignore me for this long. I missed her, even as she woke up right next to me.

The first thing she told me, though, was something I never expected.

"I hope you know I'm going back to Phoenix soon."

I nodded. "Okay. Sure. So you'd fight to stay in Forks for Edward, but not for me."

She glared at me, and it was then that I knew I was right.

Another silent day ensued. If they didn't bother me so much, I could get used to them. Night was different, though. Night had always been different from day with us; night always brought more.

The hotel room was big—far too big. It emptier and emptier—lonelier and lonelier—tonight more than ever.

Bella didn't open up to me as we sat on opposite sides of the room, and time was nonexistent. Everything rushed by like snapshots of a camera—flash: we're on the edge of bed, intertwined as one; flash: we're so far away that we can only see specks of each other—and we eventually lost track of what was going on.

Sometimes she didn't talk to me—flash: we're giggled like kindergarteners; flash: we're chuckling like an old married couple—and sometimes she did. One second, her hands were knit together in her lap. In the next, her hands were in my hair.

Flash: we're on the bed; flash: she's screaming my name in pure ecstasy because yes, yes, YES! I am the one. I've always been the one.

Flash: we're on the floor; flash: I'm moaning her name like the sweetest of ballads because she's mine, mine, mine. She's always been mine.

Flash: we're fully-clothed; flash: it's like nothing even happened.

Flash: it's like we never even happened.

Flash: we're on First Beach, I'm just a kid, she's just a pretty girl, and I'm telling her scary stories that have nothing to do with anything.

I was happy we'd left, and unhappy that we'd left for other reasons as well. I was glad we were here, instead of in her bedroom in Forks, trying to be as secretive as possible. Our emotions would have drilled straight through the roof there. But here, it was kind of the same thing. It was like I could see the little flecks of emotions flying through the room like little beams of light and hatred and suffering and nostalgia and love.

Flash: she's kissing my neck, and the tears of a healing angel drip down to my shoulder; flash: I'm kissing her pain away, slow and deep and smooth and hard.

Flash: she's pounding at my chest, crying and screaming and pushing me away like she always did; flash: I'm finally done, walking out the door and I'm not turning back; flash: she begs and pleads and pulls at my legs and wants me to stay so fucking bad I can taste it.

How could I ever hate Bella Swan? How could I ever not want her? I was born to love her, and I was born to die with her. I wasn't supposed to fight with her; that had never been my calling, and I didn't want it to be.

I couldn't fight with her. I just couldn't.

I could only fight for her.

Flash: I'm smiling at her and those big, chocolate brown, doe eyes bring me right home, where I belong; flash: she's nodding at me because I am the only one and I agree; flash: I'm running my hand through her hair and whispering "I love you, I love you" over and over again; flash: she's telling me the same thing, and I believe her. I actually believe her.

Flash: she sits next to my dead body and cries, cries, cries… she always cries, and she'll never stop crying after this; flash: Bella Swan is the death of me.

Bella spent the entire next day reading and packing, packing and reading. She was really serious about going back to Phoenix, it seemed. And at twilight, she told me that I had better pack my own things, since I had to check out, too.

"Are you gonna take a bus?" I asked.

She nodded. "I don't think I want to go with you."

"I didn't say I wanted to drive you myself," I replied, shrugging.

She exhaled sharply. "My mom will be so happy to see me."

"Must be nice," I agreed. "Mine's dead. I've got a dead mom, absentee sisters, and a dad that doesn't care. Aren't I lucky? Isn't it nice to have the easy life?"

She was silent, and so was I.

Holy shit, I was so sorry. I couldn't keep this up any longer. She'd wanted me to be mad at her, and now that I actually was (or at least acting like it), I couldn't do it anymore. She was probably correct in the sense that I needed to grow up, but if being dedicated to the girl I loved was wrong, then I didn't want to be right.

She wouldn't listen to me as I tried to tell her I was sorry on the way out the hotel. She was going to hail a cab to a bus terminal tonight, and nothing was stopping her.

Not even me.

I pleaded, "Bella, I'm sorry" for the millionth time once we were out the doors of the hotel, and she wasn't saying anything back; she only sped up her pace. I'd really fucked up, and now I followed her like a fool, waiting for answers from a girl who didn't want to give them to me.

She finally stopped walking at one point and just stood there. Her hands were on her hips and her lips pulled into a pout. Classic Bella stance right there. God, I loved her. I couldn't let her go even if I tried. Never again. "If you're gonna let me go," she told me, "then do it now. I can't stand here all night, having you look at me like that."

I set her bag down next to her on the sidewalk. "No," I said. "I'm not gonna let you go."

Before she could reply, I wrapped my arms around her and lifted her up so I could kiss her. And you how lucky I was?

Lucky enough to be kissed back.

I was the luckiest bastard in the entire world.

What had I done to get a girl like Bella Swan? I had no idea. I almost didn't want to know; I already had her, and I didn't want anyone else. I didn't need to be anywhere else but here either. I didn't care that we were on the middle of the sidewalk or that it was raining a little. I wouldn't care if a thousand people were watching. I'd said it before and I would say it again: I fucking loved Bella Swan, and I wanted the whole world to know it.

"Oh, Jake," she murmured.

"Oh, Bells."

"I didn't know you were such a romantic," she said as we entered the hotel again, my arm wrapped around her. I still carried her bag.

"What, you only took me back because of that?" I asked.

She laughed and shook her head. "Of course not. In all honesty, I took you back because I couldn't stand to not talk to you, and I was really just mad at myself. I mean, I still sort of am, but I shouldn't have to take that out on you. That's not fair, Jake, and I'm sorry. You're just trying to do the right thing. And you know what's funny? You are right! I mean, it's good that you don't worry—I really do always worry for the both of us. And I'm so ridiculous. It's silly. And—" She froze and looked up at me.

"Yeah?" I asked.

"Am I talking too much?"

"Just a little."

She sighed. "To make a long story short, I was wrong and you were right."

The elevator opened, a man walked out, and Bella and I entered it. "Thanks honey," I told her.

"And I really missed seeing you naked," she added, smiling devilishly. "That's all."

Bella couldn't keep her hands and lips off me on the elevator ride—or the walk to the room either—and she nearly pounced on me once we got inside the room and shut the door. She instinctively opened the door just as soon as she closed it, though, only to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door's handle.

"You know," I said, sitting down on the bed, "I'm starting to think we should develop a social life."

She sauntered over to me. "This is social," she corrected me. "It's even exercise."

I laughed, and she laughed with me. Just like old times.

This wasn't though—this was new brand new. I was new for Bella—totally fresh and imaginative—as she stood in front of me, as beautiful as ever. She kicked off her shoes and put her hands at her jacket, but then I put my hands on hers, stopping her.

"Yeah?" she murmured.

"Let me do it."

She licked her lips and nodded.

I stood up in front of her and slowly, carefully slipped her jacket away, which had just been hanging off her shoulder. It dropped to the ground, and soon enough, so did her shirt. I stood there for a minute, just admiring her almost bare torso. She suddenly shivered, though, and crossed her arms across her chest.

"Are you nervous?" I asked.

She shook her head. "It's not like we're virgins. This is just… new for me. And different."

"In a good way?"

"In a great way." She smiled, and I was at home.

She slowly stretched her arms behind her and unhooked her white bra. It fell to her other items, leaving them in a pile.

Holy shit, she's perfect.

"You can do the rest," she told me, smiling sheepishly.

I grabbed her by the hips and put her down on the bed with me, slipping my own shoes off, with my arms wrapped around her. God, how it felt to just hold her like this. I didn't even want to let her go.

And by now, I was positive that I didn't have to.

She hitched her leg around my waist, and I moved my lips to hers, kissing her hard and like the world depended on it… and in a way, it did. Bella was my world; there was no denying it.

I moved my hands down to the button of her jeans, and she bit my lip. She could've drawn blood with that bite.

"Aggressive, much?" I asked.

She leaned back and looked at me I disbelief. "I know I said you could do it, but your clothes are still on!" she protested. "Don't be mean."

"The big, bad wolf's being mean now?" I asked teasingly.

"Shut up."

"C'mon, Bella, I'm just messing with ya. I once read somewhere that any couple can have sex, but it takes real lovers to be able to laugh."

She cocked her head to the side and gave me a thoughtful expression. "What were you doing reading my magazines?"

I laughed, and she laughed, too. "See?" I asked.

"Okay, Mr. Romance," she said. "Any other pieces of advice?"

"Sorry, I'm not Mr. Romance and I'm not any other sort of advice column either. I'm the jokes section."

She laughed again, and then put her thumbs at my cheeks. "Jake, you're ridiculous."

"And you couldn't love me if I changed, Bells," I concluded.

Bella nodded. "You're just about right." Then she scooted over and plopped back against the pillows. "My body is ready," she said.

"Mmm," I murmured, putting my hands at the button of her jeans again right after she quickly got me out of my shirt.

"This is like paradise," I said.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she replied with a roll of her eyes. "You say that all the time."

"Only 'cause it's true," I admitted, sliding her jeans down her milky white legs and throwing them off the bed, behind me. "Heaven is a place on Earth with you, honey."

"Huh, I know what that song's from," she said. "You're stealing my magazines and my CDs. I just may have to turn you in, Jake. You're so bad."

I snickered and lied down, putting my lips to her stomach. "Bad to the bone?" I asked against her skin.

She put her fingers in my hair and sighed. "Nah. You're actually really good."

"Damn, you even inspired me to put on a bad boy image for a second," I said between kisses.

"You've never been bad," she admitted. "You're so… great. You take away the bad."

"Aww, honey."

"Don't tease me, Jake."

With a slight tug on the elastic of her panties, I snickered again. "I'm not. I promise."


"We keep running away from our problems, don't we?" I asked. "I mean, we've run away again. We can't do this every time things go bad."

"This won't happen every time," she assured me, hitching her legs around me. "Things are just… hard."

"I'll say," I agreed. "If we don't get things done in a minute, I'm gonna combust."

"Ha, ha," she said sarcastically. I could imagine her rolling her eyes. "Don't you see it, though? I'm just so damn tired of waiting around for things to be okay. This is supposed to be easy, right? We can't keep doing this to each other."

I looked up. "This isn't on us, though. If it were up to me, things would be perfect and we wouldn't have to run away."

"I know, I know…"

"I'll make you a deal," I offered, sitting up a little bit.

"And what would that be?"

"Let's stop worrying for a little bit longer."

Her eyes widened. "I'm trying!"

"C'mon, Bells. We can do way better than I can. It's a group effort."

She took a deep breath and exhaled sharply. "Alright."


"I said alright."

"Okay, okay."

I hovered over her and kissed her softly. She looked up at me, blinked twice, and pulled me down to her by the hair. She kissed me harder and kept her legs around me.

I moved my lips to her shoulder, biting a little and making her groan, and then I started to unbutton my jeans, but she stopped me. "Jake, wait."

"Yeah?" I breathed.

"Let me do it."

Then she slowly but sensually undoing my jeans, sliding them off just as slow. She was teasing me.

"I'm gonna explode, Bells," I panted.

She giggled, and I swore I'd fallen in love with her twenty times more.

"So you're making fun of me," I said.

"No, Jake," she said between giggles. "Any couple can have sex; it takes real lovers to laugh, remember?"


She tugged down my boxers with four times the speed that she took with my jeans, and squeezed my butt. There was this obsession with my butt that she had, and I would never get it, but that was cool.

I mean, it wasn't like my butt was the main event or anything.

Afterwards, I felt unraveled. My heart had come undone and redone over and over again like a ball of yarn at the hands of Bella Swan. She'd taken so much out of me, I wanted to cry.

Yeah, you heard me. I, Jacob Black, was about to cry because of Bella. I'd never not been open about my emotions, anyway.

I planted only a thousand kisses on Bella's neck before falling asleep with my limbs tangled with hers. I was easily the happiest guy on the planet.

I was woken up with the sweet kisses of an angel the next morning, and I knew this day was going to be great. Only I remembered something.

"We're going home today, aren't we?" I asked.

She nodded and pouted a little. "We've gotta check out by one. It's only nine now."


She ran her fingers along my face, tracing my jaw. "God, you're beautiful," she breathed. "I love you, Jake."

"Love you, Bells."

I rolled to my side so I could face her properly, and then I kissed her. Damn, I could kiss her all day.

She eventually pulled away and sighed. "I need a shower."

I smiled. "Me, too. We should preserve water."

It's one thing to get clean, but it's another to get clean with the person you love. Showering with Bella had to be the equivalence to (or at least proportional to) being in heaven, only sudsier.

At one point, Bella slipped on air, I guessed (bless her soul), and started falling, but I caught her. "Gah," she uttered. "I'm so clumsy."

"That's a bit of an understatement," I added.

"Thanks." She shrugged away from my grip and slid down, sitting at the bottom of the tub. "Do you wanna meet me down here? This is kind of an awkward way to view things."

Well. No words for that one.

I sat down at the tub with her, the hot water still raining down on us, and she smiled at me. I would die for that smile.

"What?" I asked.

"Just nothing."

I smiled back like the hopelessly-in-love fool that I was, and she wiped strands of hair that stuck to my forehead to the side.

"I missed you," I mumbled.

She narrowed her eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"I don't even know. I just missed you, and you were never gone."

"Oh, Jake. You missed us."

I nodded. "I did."

We sat there for a moment, and I remembered something else, too. "Did you open up the box I gave you the other night?"

She shook her head. "I put it on the desk and haven't touched it since."

I quickly got up and walked to the desk in the room. I nearly slipped, being so excited. I got back to the tub and held it out in front of me in my palm.

"Oh my God, that's the kind of box you'd put a—"

I smiled. "Open it."

"Are you being serious?"

"'Course I am. C'mon, Bells. See for yourself."

"Jake, we're too young. We're in school and you're sixteen and—"

"Are you gonna make assumptions are or you gonna open it?"

She made a face and eventually took the little box out of my hand. "I swear to God, if this is a wedding ring, Jacob…" She fumbled with the box and eventually opened it. Her face was priceless.

"Thank God this is a bracelet or a necklace," she breathed. "I was about to have a heart attack." She slowly lifted the bracelet out of the box and held it up in front of her. It was nothing to fancy; just a chain with a wolf charm on it.

"This is beautiful," she said.

"Sorry it's nothing too out there," I replied.

"No, Jake. This is perfect."

"I made the charm myself."

"It's beautiful, Jacob. Really. You've always been good with your han—"

She shrieked. We were suddenly being pelted with ice-cold water.

Well, shit.

Bella and I spent the last hours of our stay (after recovering from the cold shower) on the beach, just walking around.

"Isn't this funny?" I asked. "We're back to where we've started."

Looking down at the sand, she shook her head and laced her fingers tighter to mine. "Not really," she disagreed. "We should have gone back to California."


"The sun doesn't shine here," she concluded.

"The thing about the sun…" I began. "It's always there. Sometimes you can't see it, but it never goes away."

"I can't disagree with that."

I stopped walking and faced her. "I'm glad I came here with you," I told her. "Thanks."

"No, thank you," she said. "I was losing my mind. And I know this was a wimpy move, but yeah. Thanks, Jacob. I owe you a lot."

"You don't owe me anything," I replied. "I mean, unless you want to dance with me."

"Dance?" she asked, her eyebrows knit closer. "There's no music."

I held her by the waist and smiled. "We don't need any music."

She laid her head at my chest and swayed with me. She stood on the tips of her toes and drew little circles on my back.

"Imagine if things were just a little different," I mumbled.


"Honey, I'm glad you love me for what I am," I said. "I'm sorry that I'm such a freaky werewolf, but I'm stuck like this."

She shook her head and put her hands to my cheeks. "Jake, you're such an idiot. I could never leave you or even not love you anymore. Don't you know that? And you're kind of right; you are a freaky werewolf. But you know what? You're my freaky werewolf, my amazing best friend, and the love of my life. I'm not going to change that. Not now, not ever."

"Damn, Bella," I said, nearly astonished. "You're as sharp as a knife."

"Don't you know why?" she asked. "I have to be."

"What do you mean?"

She gave me a special look—the kind of look that only we could share—and blinked. "I always remember that I once lost you, Jake. I can't lose you again."

"Fuck," I muttered. "I'm sorry."

"Stop being sorry," she said sharply. "Jacob Black, you made me strong. And just so you know, I'd much rather die with you than without you."

I kissed her on the top of her head. "Love you, Bells."

"Love you more, Jake."

I felt her smile against my body. "You're wrong."

"I'm so glad I don't have to wait for you anymore," I mumbled.

"What do you mean?"

I sighed. "I've had a crush on you since… like, forever."

She snickered.

"Pathetic, huh?" I asked.

"No. I think it's cute. I've liked you for a long time, too, if it makes you feel better."

"Not as long as I liked you."

"Fine, you win," she said. "Now let's dance while we can."

And so we did.


We got back to Forks with a little more confidence than the last time… at least, for me. This shocking conclusion hit me just as I saw the welcome sign to Forks.

Nothing scared me anymore.

I'd ran off with Jacob not once, but twice; I'd scared the living hell out of my father with that and the altercations at my house; and I'd just about screwed up everything. I'd had to set my ex-boyfriend on fire, hide from my father, and lose my mind. Oh yeah, I'd had to grow up fast. But I wasn't afraid of anything anymore. There was nothing to be afraid of. There was nothing to hide from or hide; that had all been unveiled, anyway. And as far as I knew, the danger was over.

Well, if you exclude the Edward part. I still wanted him dead.

All that was left to do now was mend the broken parts together, and eventually silent my song. I was pulling a Jacob with this, trying to fix things. Nobody could fix things like he could, though. He was a professional at that. It'd worked for me.

But he couldn't fix my dad or even try to make things better; that was all me.

Charlie was home this time, but he was waiting outside for us. Much to my surprise, he didn't have a shotgun in his hands. He just stood at the curb with his hands in his pockets. I didn't ask Jacob to stay in the car; we went out together.

I saw the pain in my father's eyes, and tears instantly welled up in my own. Jeez, I was such a crier. I couldn't help it, though. I'd put Charlie through absolute hell, and I didn't want to do that ever again.

Charlie sighed and dug his hands out of his pockets as we stood, facing each other. If Jacob wasn't holding my hand now, I would have sprinted into Charlie's arms like a little kid at the end of the first day of school. But I was an adult now; I'd told him myself. So I tentatively let go of Jacob's hand and started walking to Charlie.

Once I got to him, I planted my face into his chest, and the tears flowed like a river. "I'm sorry, Dad," I cried in a muffled voice. "I was such a bitch."

"It's okay, kid," he told me, his hand ruffling my hair. "I'm sorry, too."

"Don't be," I said. "I was worse. I'm sorry I was being so stupid. I shouldn't have been so terrible to you."

"It takes two to tango," he admitted.

"I'm sorry, Dad. I love you."

"Love you, too. Always will."

Things with Charlie and I were okay. Things with Jacob and I were okay. I was glad.

I was finally okay.

I went to Jacob's house that afternoon (Charlie even came, too), and I felt relieved. There was no more running and no more hiding.

One of my wishes came true, too.

Sam visited for a few minutes to inform Jake and I that Edward had been killed. He'd been on the treaty line alone, and hadn't hesitated to be killed, apparently. Then again, there probably wasn't much he could have done with only one arm. It was crazy to think, Wow. The guy I used to be in love with was just killed. How was I supposed to react? Was I supposed to laugh? Cry? I didn't know—I didn't do either of those things. All I could do was retreat to the garage. Washington's little Taj Mahal felt like home, and in a way, it was.

Jacob handed me a warm can of grape soda as I took a seat on a toolbox, and I felt like I was being handed a trophy or something. The radio played in the background, and I felt like it was my victory music. It was a funny thing, looking back on how I'd used to be. I'd used to be so determined to have everything, but there was nothing good about wanting it all and ending up with nothing. It was then—right here and now—that I realized something new.

I didn't want it all. I didn't need everything. I didn't need a castle or a prince or magic; I had the little Taj Mahal, Jacob, and my love for him. All of this—a warm soda in this artsy garage with the man I was in love with—was just enough. I'd used to be so focused on avoiding pain, when in actuality, pain was okay. I was allowed to feel pain, and I was allowed to expect it. The only thing that mattered was what I did with it. And I know just what I'd done with the pain.

I'd dealt with it and I'd triumphed.

That was something to be proud of.


"We should probably dedicate this to something other than responsibility," I suggested after cracking open my soda can and holding it in the air for a toast.

Bella smiled cutely and shrugged. "What's wrong with responsibility?" she asked.

I couldn't come up with anything. "Alright," I said, giving up. "To responsibility?"

She held her own soda can up in the air. "Twice a week?"

"Twice a week."

Our cans touched, and I felt like the happiest guy on the planet. Hell, I'd never stop, with her around. I'd used to think only imprinting would save Bella and I, but that wasn't the case. I remembered solely after figuring out what imprinting was, and thinking, Why can't I just imprint on Bella? I didn't need any freaky magic crap, though. This was natural. This was pretty damn perfect, and I had something to make it even better.

I stood up and walked to the table on the furthest side of the garage, where a little wooden box sat. I took the lid off and reached inside for another box, only this one was black, just like the other one I'd given Bella this morning, only bigger.

I approached her with the box behind my back, and her eyebrows rose. "What are you about to show me?" she asked.

I dramatically presented her the box, and her eyes widened. "Not again, Jake," she groaned. "You're always giving me a heart attack with these little black boxes. Can't you just tell me it's another bracelet?"

"Don't you wanna open it?" I asked.

"No," she said sternly.

Ouch. "Please?" I asked.

She shook her head. "Not now. I can see the bracelet some other time."

I wasn't gonna push her into opening the box, so I nodded and sat down across from her, putting the box at my side. If only she knew what was really in it…

"I guess I'll just save it for a rainy day," I sighed, giving her a slight puppy-dog eyes look.

She just stared at me for a bit, and then sat up straighter, her face excited now. "Okay, give me the box."

I smiled and held it out to her.

"We're still too young," she said as she carefully took it from me. Then she slowly opened it. At first, she still looked excited. Once she saw what was in the box, she blushed.

"Condoms, Jake?" she asked. "Cute. Very cute."

I laughed. "It's the mature thing, though," I replied.

"You're so silly," she said, bending over to kiss me.

"And you couldn't love me if I changed," I added, holding her hands in mine.

She smiled and shook her head. Then she kissed me. "Never," she assured me.

The music on the radio stuck out to me a little bit, and I recognized the lyrics. I also finally figured out the name of the song. It was "Youth Knows No Pain."

I couldn't have known any pain right now, and it felt fantastic.