Story Title: Breathe Again by ysar
Chapter: 22. Waiting
Genre: Twilight – Romance / Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Strong Language, Violence,
Status: Work In Progress
Summary: “If Alice hadn’t seen Bella cliff-dive, what would have happened? Would Bella have given in to her feelings for Jacob? Was she even capable of moving on? Victoria’s hunting, Edward’s coming back—and that’s just the beginning!”
“Just trust me,” he’d said.
And surprisingly, I did. Sure, I was terrified. Victoria had come for me. I was sure it was her. But there was something in the way Jacob spoke, the way he seemed so in control, the way he knew exactly what to do that I trusted. I wasn’t worried about my safety at all. I was worried about his.
He was so sure of himself. Too sure. Too confident in himself and in the pack. Yes, I’d seen what they were capable of. Well, okay, so I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but I’d seen enough to know. They were wolves—and not just any wolves. They were the size of horses, they ran with a speed I’d only seen in vampires, and they had killed Laurent. I’d been fortunate enough not to see that part myself. But I knew they had accomplished what I’d thought was impossible.
And there were so many of them. Sam and Embry and Jared and Jake and Paul. And now Leah and Seth. Was Quil one of them now, too? He had to be. He was enormous, and he was always with them. Why hadn’t I figured it out before? How many others were there that I simply hadn’t noticed? And how many vampires were they facing?
That’s where the real fear came from. If it had been all…how many? Eight? If it had been all eight of them against Victoria, I might not have been so nervous. If five could take down Laurent, surely eight could take down Victoria. But Jake said there were more. She must have formed another coven. Or joined one. So eight werewolves against how many vampires?
I tried to reason with myself, to stay calm. Jake could read me so well, and he knew I was worried. He’d even correctly deduced that I was worried about him. So I couldn’t panic. I wouldn’t panic. Whether I was calm or freaking out, this was happening, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. But I could hold myself together for his sake. He had enough on his mind. And so I tried to reason with myself.
The Cullens had been considered a large coven, although they preferred the term family. And there had only been seven of them. So chances were Victoria’s new group was smaller. Maybe there were only three of them, like before? That wouldn’t be so bad. Eight werewolves could take on three vampires. Couldn’t they?
Billy was waiting when we pulled up. He was sitting just outside the door, his chair sitting halfway in the grass, and his eyes scanned the darkness behind us. Billy had never struck me as a weak man, even in a wheelchair, but now…now he looked imposing, intimidating, and almost dangerous. He had a commanding air about him, and for a moment I could almost see the power he wielded in the tribe.
“Bella?” Jake asked.
I hadn’t even realized we’d stopped, and now he was holding my door open, waiting for me to climb out. I slid from the seat and grabbed his hand, numbly following as he led me into the house. Billy nodded wordlessly as we passed, but his eyes never left the tree line at the edge of the yard.
“What’s happening? Why did he leave? Where are you going?” Rachel sobbed, throwing herself at Jake the second we stepped inside.
He pried her away from him, gripping her wrists and pushing her just far enough away that he could look down at her, and she fell silent.
“Stay with Dad,” Jacob said. “Paul and I will be back as soon as we can. Do not leave, no matter what you think is happening.”
Rachel nodded mutely, sniffling a little, and then walked over to sit down on the sofa. She stared at the floor as I tried to absorb what was happening.
I looked up at Jacob, trying to hide my fear. It was pointless. He grabbed me into a bone-crushing hug, and I couldn’t bring myself to protest. I didn’t need to breathe. I just needed to be near him.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered in my ear. “Stay with Dad and Rach.”
He loosened his grip on me just enough that my lungs could expand again, and I was filled with the heady scent of musk and woods…Jacob’s scent. I had a million questions, a million things to say, and only one thing that mattered.
“Come back to me.”
I waited, the ticking of the old clock mocking me as the seconds dragged by. He’d kissed me so hard I was sure my lips would be bruised, and then he’d left. He hadn’t even been gone a full minute, and I was already losing my mind.
“How big are they?” Rachel asked, mercifully piercing the suffocating silence.
“Huge,” I said. “Bigger than bears. More like horses.”
“It’s a vampire, isn’t it?” she asked, her eyes wide with fear and curiosity.
I nodded, wanting to correct her, but knowing that if I told her there were more than one she’d probably freak out. I was freaked out. Besides, that would only bring up more questions, and I didn’t have the answers.
“They’ll be okay, right? I mean, really?”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and walked outside.
“Shouldn’t be out here,” Billy said.
“I’m supposed to stay with you,” I replied. “You’re out here.”
He only grunted and turned his attention back to the woods. I couldn’t make out a thing, but I could tell his eyes were following something. He didn’t look scared or even worried, so I took my cue from him and held it together. His back eyes moved slowly across the trees and stopped. Then he shook his head almost imperceptibly.
“Who’s out there?” I asked.
He didn’t answer.
“Seth and Leah?”
That got his attention. He spun quickly to look at me.
“What?” I asked. “Jake told me they’re here.”
“Come on out,” he said quietly.
There was a strange rustling, and then something stepped out of the darkness. Seth.
Screw being calm. I bolted toward him, stumbling over the uneven gravel and grass. Suddenly I pitched forward, my toe catching on something, and all the breath left my lungs as I collided with the…with Seth? Well, he was just as solid as the ground, but at least I didn’t skin my knees.
“Careful there,” he said humorlessly, gripping my arms as he pushed me upright again. “Jake’ll kill me if anything happens to you.”
“Tell me what’s happening,” I demanded. “You can hear them right? Can you see them too? Is he okay? Is it over yet? Is—“
“Let’s go talk to Billy,” he said, spinning me back around toward the house.
I had to almost run to keep up with his long strides. Gone was the sweet, funny boy I knew. He was replaced by this strange version of a man, all confidence and control now. He stopped just short of Billy and proceeded to fill him in as I looked on, feeling oddly like a child eavesdropping on the grown-ups.
“Five. They set fires all over town. Probably a diversion. We already got two of them.”
“Civilians?” Billy asked.
“Fine so far,” Seth replied. “Some minor injuries, but nothing serious. It looks like they hit the businesses, and it’s so late…”
“Doesn’t look like it. Everyone’s distracted by the fires.”
“Makes sense,” Billy nodded.
“What about Jake?” I interrupted. “And Charlie?”
They both turned to me with surprise, almost like they’d forgotten I was there.
“Jake’s good,” Seth said, his face lighting up a little and reminding me of the boy I knew was in there somewhere. “Everyone’s good. And someone’s been on Charlie’s tail all night. We thought maybe they’d go after him…you know, to get to you. But it doesn’t look like they thought it out that well. ”
They’d certainly thought it out well enough to bring back-up. And set fires. And God only knew what else. “So what now?” I asked.
“We wait. I have to get back,” he said. “It shouldn’t be much longer before—“
An eerie howl split the night and Seth stopped mid-thought, every muscle in his body tensed and alert. In the next second he was gone, practically flying across the yard, phasing in mid-air just as he slipped into the forest. Pieces of his shorts fluttered in the air for a moment before dropping to the ground.
“What was that?” Rachel shrieked, the door slamming into the wall behind it as she darted from the house. “What’s wrong?”
Billy shook his head, once again staring into the forest, but this time he reached his hand out to his daughter. She looked at me, distraught, as she clung to her father, and then she crumpled to the ground, her whole body shaking with sobs.
Time stopped as I lowered myself to the ground by her side and put an arm around her. She turned and flung her arms around me, crying into my shoulder as I stared numbly at Billy. He offered me a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
22. Waiting: Jacob
I had to leave her. All hell was breaking loose in Forks, and I had to leave her.
I drove as she tried to keep it together. She was fiddling with the hem of her shirt, tapping her foot, staring wide-eyed straight ahead while she tried to feign calm. I knew better. Bella was freaking out inside.
I’d said what little I could to console her, to reassure her. I’d told her we’d protect her, but here I was, about to drop her off to be guarded by Queen PMS and her kid brother, while I ran off to fight miles away. It wasn’t right. I should have been able to stay with her, to protect her. I knew Leah and Seth could be a lethal combination, but they didn’t love her. It’s not like they would sit by and let something happen to her, but I still didn’t like it. It should have been me. Sam should have left me to protect her.
And I knew her well enough to know she wasn’t even worried about herself. She was worried about me. She was worried about Charlie. Hell, she was probably even worried about that damned Newton kid, but she wasn’t worried for herself. I tried to sound confident. I tried to sound calm. But I was freaking out inside.
Sure, we’d taken down a vampire before—that male that Bella knew. But then it had been five against one. Now it was eight against…how many? I knew what to do, I knew how to do it, and I knew I had to. But the red-haired one was fast. She’d killed before, and she’d gotten away. I knew we could take her, but first we had to catch her. And she wasn’t getting anywhere near my Bella.
I wasn’t surprised when I saw Dad waiting outside for us. I wasn’t sure how, but he always knew when the pack was “in action.” I suspected there was some sort of phone tree I didn’t know about, but it really didn’t matter. At least he knew and he understood. Poor Sue probably just thought her kids were up to no good.
I parked the truck and quickly rounded it to help Bella out. She just sat there, unmoving, staring at my dad.
She looked startled but didn’t say anything, and I racked my brain for something I could tell her that would convince her everything would be all right. She climbed out and grabbed my hand, squeezing too tightly as we walked inside the house. Before I could say anything to reassure her, Rachel came flying and launched herself at me.
“What’s happening? Why did he leave? Where are you going?”
She was a teary mess, and even though I felt sorry for her, I didn’t have time for her hysterics. I peeled her off me and pushed her back, holding her wrists firmly. She got the message and shut up.
“Stay with Dad,” I told her. “Paul and I will be back as soon as we can. Do not leave, no matter what you think is happening.”
She nodded and sniffled a little, and then sat down quietly. I turned my attention back to Bella.
She still looked stunned, but she was holding it together, and for a second, I was filled with pride. My sister, older than Bella, claiming to be an adult, having grown up with all the legends…she was a basket case. My girlfriend was stronger than that, not even fearing for herself and refusing to let her fear for the rest of us overtake her. I pulled her into my arms and just held her for a moment.
“It’ll be okay,” I whispered. “Stay with Dad and Rach.”
“Come back to me,” she said as I let her go.
“Always,” I promised.
It was like stepping into hell. The air was heated and thick with smoke. Sirens wailed and cars sped down streets as people milled about, calling out to each other and talking on cell phones. The residents of Forks had never experienced a night like this, and it was up to us to make sure it didn’t get worse.
It was almost impossible to sort through the racing thoughts of the pack. Everywhere I focused there were fires, people, running. I zeroed in on Sam, who was near what appeared to have been Newton’s Outfitters. From the size of the fire, it looked like it would be just an empty parking lot come morning. He’d cornered a small leech, a strange mix of little girl and monster, and she didn’t stand a chance. He was already ripping her apart by the time I reached him, her agonized shrieks drowned out by the roar of the nearby fire and the neverending sirens.
‘I’ve got this! Find the leader!’
It was a planned attack. That was the only explanation for it. Too many vamps, too many fires, too many coincidences. It had to be that red-haired leech who was after Bella. I searched the pack minds, but she was nowhere in sight, so I headed to Bella’s house. It was the one place I knew she’d check.
All around me, the chaos raged. I kept to the woods but didn’t worry when the trees grew sparse. The collective attention of Forks was focused on people and property. No one even noticed me when I cut through a brightly lit street and sprinted directly into Bella’s front yard.
I scanned the yard quickly for any sign of her. The sickeningly sweet smell of leech was thick in the woods behind Bella’s house, but it didn’t even touch her doorstep. The bloodsucker’s trail led in two directions, one much stronger than the other. Her path away from the house. I raced after her, following her scent, my rage growing as it got stronger and I got closer.
I had to detour when I got near the school. Half the town was there, and someone had set up a giant spotlight as two firetrucks aimed their hoses at the rapidly spreading flames. I leaped over a fence and wound my way through the parked buses, anxious not to lose time. Just as I emerged on the other side of the lot, I slammed into something impossibly hard, and my senses were assaulted by the fetid odor of vampire.
He looked lost and confused, and a bit frightened. If it hadn’t been for his putrid scent, I might have thought he was just a scared kid. He looked to be about my age, maybe a year or two older, and I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
Before he had time to react, I was on him, forcing my teeth into the almost impenetrable flesh of his neck. He let out a strangled grunt, his arms flailing around my torso, just before I tore his head clean off. Disposing of the body was a bit more difficult. I grabbed his leg and drug the body around the side of the school, but there were too many people standing around. I knew better than to try the way I’d come.
I finally had to jump from a dumpster, thankfully closed, to the rooftop and fling it into the fire from there. I followed with the head, and then went back to what I was doing—tracking the red-haired one.
Once I was away from the crowded school, I stopped watching for people and cars, not caring if I was spotted, as long as I caught up to her. In what felt like seconds, I was miles away from Bella’s house and just beyond the edge of town. My job would be easier here, away from all those who still believed they lived in a normal world. No one would hear the crash of my attack, her screams of pain, the unearthly tearing as I destroyed her.
She had to be close. Her stench burned my nostrils, and I yearned to pull back, to get away from it. Suddenly I picked up the scent of a second leech. It was fainter, as if this one had run ahead of her toward their destination. I searched the minds of the pack again, looking for someone who could help, but they were all too far away or too busy with their own leeches.
Sam was still grappling with the pieces of his kill, fighting the still-animated limbs as he tossed them into the fire engulfing Newton’s. Embry’s pursuit of Charlie was interrupted by the biggest bloodsucker I’d ever seen, and Jared was only seconds away from joining in the fight. Quil was playing a game of cat and mouse with his catch, letting her almost get away before he ripped off another piece of her as Paul raced from across town to lend a hand. That left me on my own to deal with the trickiest, most elusive bloodsucker we’d come across…and whoever her companion was.
I slowed for a second at the realization—just long enough to see where I was. My heart lurched painfully in my chest as I recognized the path I was on. Straight ahead lay the rez, only a few miles away. Bella, Rachel, and my dad were there, not to mention Sue and Emily…and nearly everyone else I knew. All defenseless, all vulnerable, all alone except for Seth and Leah. And the leeches were on their way.
I couldn’t find Seth, so I focused on Leah. She was watching Seth talk to Bella. My Bella. I’d never run so hard or so fast in my life. I could hear the frenzied footsteps of the bloodsucker ahead of me. I glimpsed her fiery hair glinting in the moonlight, and suddenly I didn’t care. I didn’t want to catch her. I wanted to beat her there, to get ahead of her and take down whoever was in the lead before they could reach my family.
I could hear Sam screaming in my mind, yelling at me to take down the leader, the red-haired one. It was an alpha command, one I had to obey, and it felt like I was being ripped in two as I tried to defy him. She was almost within my reach, her wild eyes landing on me as she spun to identify her pursuer. If she’d been human, she would have been pretty. But there was nothing pretty about the otherworldly glow of her pale skin, the glint of her venomous teeth, the noxious stench that rolled off her stony body as she tried to outrun me.
I felt Leah’s attention turn to me at once, and I was answered by a keening howl as she saw in my mind the double threat and our rapid approach. A sharp crackling sound cut through my mind as Seth phased to join his sister, just as the lanky bloodsucker ahead of us closed in on them.
I was filled with their fear, their excitement, their rage as Leah lunged at the leech and Seth rounded him to attack from behind. My internal struggle eased as it became clear they could handle him, and I sprang for the creature in front of me.
She spun quickly, almost faster than my eyes could register, her shrill laughter taunting me as I missed contact. Before I could stop myself, I was ahead of her, and as I turned to face her a sharp pain tore across my back. She leapt, and I dropped to the ground, the air around us whirling as she flew over my head. I sprang at her, jaws snapping, a montrous snarl ripping through my body, but she was too fast again.
We darted through the trees, branches and saplings crashing around us, rocks crumbling beneath her bare feet as she tried to outrun me. But I knew where we were going, and she made the mistake of looking back. The earth shook as she crashed into a virtual wall of rock, and I snapped blindly in the choking dust that filled the air around us. My jaws closed around stone, and I nearly let go, thinking I’d missed again. That’s when I heard her shriek. I snapped my head around, pulling and ripping, and was rewarded with an ear-splitting wail and the sound of granite snapping, rendering in two.
She clawed at my shoulder, trying desperately to obtain whatever part of her I held in my jaws, so I tossed it behind me and lunged for her again. The dust was clearing, only to be replaced by twigs and leaves swirling around our fevered battle. This time I knew what it was when my teeth closed around the leech, but my grip was tenuous, and she managed to slip from my mouth before she turned to flee.
I raced after her, ignoring the anxious minds of the pack who were hurrying to catch up with us. I could focus only on her, the abomination I pursued. She would not get near my Bella.
My pace slowed as I realized she was running haphazardly through the dense forest. She had no plan, no strategy, no prey in mind. She was simply running for her vile excuse for a “life.”