Chapter 1- Running Late

I hoped I hadn't missed the entire party as I made my way through the forest. I would have been a little faster on four legs, but it would have made carrying the cake a lot harder. It didn't help that I felt confined by the stupid dress shirt Alice had bought me. She insisted that this would be a formal affair and as much as I hated to admit it, I suppose the weird little pixie was right. I'd already ruined Nessie's birthday by missing the whole damn party; it was the least I could do to show up looking presentable.

I wasn't sure if Renesmee was more upset than she'd let on. She had a habit of playing martyr- a clearly inherited trait. Even though Ness swore that she didn't mind (birthdays were kinda irrelevant in Nessie's life), I felt like I needed to make it up to her. This one had been pretty important: she was double digits now, and every vampire the Cullen's had ever met were stopping by to pay their respects. Hence, I had to be on the Rez- away from her. Thankfully, the visitors were instructed to grab lunch before hitting state lines and they hadn't been close enough to set off any new phasing. Always cautious, though, Sam had insisted that I spend the day in La Push. Like, a whole 419 miles and 32 hours (47 minutes and 16 seconds, not that I was counting every excruciating moment) away from my imprint. I think he was just trying to make a point: if the rest of my brothers had to be away from their imprints, than so would I.

The worst part, though, was knowing that Nessie would be the only person there with an active heart and pulsing arteries. I knew she could take care of herself, not to mention the rest of the Cullens would risk destruction before she was hurt, but it didn't change the fact that her party guests might as well have been Vlad Dracula.

I sped up just a little at the thought. My eyes and nose were burning worse than ever with the vaguely familiar scents, but I was too anxious to notice.

I hit the edge of the forest and figured that Edward had caught my thoughts by now. It was funny; after all this time, I didn't like the idea of having the bloodsucker in my head. I'd gotten over it, though. It was worth it for Nessie.

It's just me, pops, I added that last part just to get a rise out of him. Stopping by for the festivities- or what's left. Don't tell her though; it's a surprise.

I slowed down to a brisk jog as I reached the landscape of the Cullen abode. With a hop, I grabbed hold of the lowest branch, swinging myself up to the next while balancing the cake on my other hand. I was just about to knock on the window when it whipped open.

Renesmee looked down at me, some of her copper hair falling forward over her shoulder and framing her face. Her beautiful brown eyes connected with mine and I felt my heart stutter a beat. I was sure that she heard it- hell, her whole family had probably heard that-but I couldn't help myself. Every time I was away from her, she was the only thing on my mind, and the moment she was with me again, I realized that she was even more breathtaking than my memory gave her credit for.

"Jacob, what are you doing here?" She beamed at me. "I thought you had pack business."

I didn't answer, words momentarily wiped from my brain. Wordlessly, I offered her the cake instead. Once both hands were free, I was able to grab a higher branch and pull my body up and over into a headstand. Letting my feet swing forward, I launched myself through the window, landing in a sitting position on the sill effortlessly.

Yeah, I was showing off, but from the smile on her face, it was working.

She hugged me before I had even stopped moving. My body automatically responded with an embrace that would have crushed a human.

"Hey, Cullens. Hey Bells," I nearly whispered once my feet were planted on solid ground. I heard a giggle, a boisterous 'hello' and a 'hey Jake'. Alice, Emmett and Bells. The adoptive 'parents' of this whole charade were busy wishing some friends happy hunting and farewell 'till the next undead family function. Every one else generally tolerated my presence and I didn't expect greetings from them.

"I was trying to surprise you," I pretty much pouted.

"Nice try," she pulled away to eye me. "You're the only one around here with a heartbeat- besides me, anyway. I could hear you when you hit the edge of the forest. Figured you were trying to bypass the house guests." She smirked. "Why else do you think I'm up here, missing my own party?"

"I missed you." I blurted, unable to keep the sentiment to myself any longer.

"You always miss me, even when I'm just downstairs."

I rolled my eyes, pretending it wasn't true. She snuggled back into my chest and placed her hand against my shoulder. I saw Charlie, Sue and Billy with smiles and presents. Even Renee and Phil were there. The Cullens had thrown two parties to ensure the safety of our more fragile loved-ones. Through it all, though, there was a tinge of sadness and a longing that I knew all too well.

"I missed you, too," she finally spoke, in case I was unsure.

"Happy birthday, Nessie." I picked her up and cradled her to my chest as I spoke. "I'm sorry I ruined your day, but I'll make it up to you. What's on the agenda?"

"You could never ruin anything, Jacob." She took my hand when I put her down. "We should start by saying goodbye to the rest of the guests. Wouldn't want them thinking I'm rude."

"As if anyone could think a bad thought 'bout you," I snorted. It was next to impossible, even to someone that hadn't imprinted on her.

I took a deep breath as we neared the last few steps. I figured I was better off getting used to the smell as soon as possible. It was too sweet and at such a concentrated amount, it burned my nose, throat and lungs. Nessie's hand tightened when she realized my discomfort.

You don't have to stay down here if you don't want, she spoke silently. I shook my head. She wasn't supposed to be thinking about my comfort, and it only made me suck it up and march on. Besides, there was a scent I recognized that needed to be reminded of my presence.

Edward's eyes narrowed in response to my thought.

Don't worry, Eddie. I don't start fights. I surveyed the room for the one bloodsucker I hated more than any other creature in the world, and found him smiling at my Nessie. If he keeps looking at her like that, though, I won't be held accountable for my actions.

Edward's expression seemed to remind me of my earlier promise. I just shrugged. I never throw the first punch, but I always return them.

"Jacob," Nessie's sweet voice tinkled into my consciousness, "you remember Nahuel."