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Willow moved toward the window on trembling legs. Someone, probably Carlisle had left it open and the slight chill made her feel a little better. They thought she was sleeping. Or they knew she couldn't go far even if she did slip out. Either way, she didn't care. It was better here than it had been in the city. Less people, more nature. Even the house seemed to be designed with the idea to keep nature accessible rather than distant.
She opened the window more and slowly pulled herself out onto the convenient branch. "Thank you," she whispered as she soaked up the strength the old-growth poured into her through her bare feet. She was still exhausted, but the cool night air cleared her head a little. It didn't take long for her to find her way to the ground and into the woods.
The further she went, the better she felt. Bare feet didn't feel the cold, and her hands caressed the trees as she moved through them. Her skin still felt like it was on fire, but the coldness on the inside was easing. It was warming slowly, filling with the strength and love of the nature surrounding her. She felt like she was truly coming home. Sunnydale had never felt like this. Her old home, even before Buffy- even when she was a child, had never felt this pure. Understandable, being that her home had been the hellmouth. But she'd never known the parental love most children grew up with either. Her parents had never nurtured her, they had never truly loved her.
Now, walking through the thick foliage of the forest, she felt the love she had always been denied. Unconditional, non-judging, non-restricting. Leaves and branches reached for her, caressing and loving. The animals, even the predators, were awed by her presence moving through their ranks. She was pulled forward, gently nudged by an instinct she'd learned the hard way not to ignore.
Jacob Black stared out at the pulsing ocean from his perch on top of the cliffs he and his pack-mates jumped from. He sat cross-legged, back straight as he stared out at the pulsing black and gray ocean. It was nearing midnight and he knew he should be at home sleeping. He had school the next day, and he knew his dad would have his hide if he skipped again. He'd been allowed a lot of freedom because of what he'd been through in the last several months, but there was a limit. And skipping school again because he was too restless to sleep was pushing those limits.
It was too weird to even consider that he was still seventeen. Physically and mentally he was mature far beyond his years. Being a genetic werewolf did that to a person. When he was small, learning the legends of his tribe, he had believed in the old stories. He'd taken them to heart, as did most of his friends. Then they'd gotten older and the old legends had began to seem like metaphors for something else. The wolf was for strength, to represent the protective, pack-like feeling the tribe felt for their people. The Cold Ones represented the evils of humanity. He'd never dreamed it was all literal.
His eyebrows furrowed as he studied the crashing waves in the moonlight. This was the only place he really felt peaceful. The roar of the ocean drowned out his thoughts most of the time. He'd never really been anywhere but the reservation. He'd been to Seattle, of course. He'd been to the bigger cities with his dad and others, but he'd never stayed for more than a day or two. This whole mess with Bella and her vampires made him want to pack up and leave. He just wanted to get as far away as he could get.
But his sense of right and wrong was holding him back. He loved Bella. It wasn't a secret. He'd had a huge crush on her back when he'd first seen her when they'd delivered the truck. Then on the beach when she'd shown up with her friends and they'd walked along the water. Since their fathers were friends, he'd tagged along whenever he could just to be around her.
Then Edward Cullen had shown up in her life. Cullen was everything Jake wasn't. Rich, handsome, graceful. Older than sixteen. It was no wonder Bella thought he was wonderful. Then he left and Bella very nearly went off the deep end. Jacob had been there for her to cling to. He knew, at least at first, that he'd only been a substitute for Edward. She'd needed to focus on something- anything- else. And he'd been familiar and convenient.
Then they'd actually became close. He was her best friend, the one she really depended on to keep her grounded and sane. She was the one he loved so much it hurt. Then things had gone from okay to awesome, then plunged straight down to horrible. It had been his turn to change. Sam Uley had tried to make it as easy on him as possible, but it had been hard.
The worst part of it all was keeping it from Bella. And knowing she'd been consorting with the very thing that had caused him to be... altered. The things that had started this entire mess. Vampires. The Cullens were the very cold ones his ancestors had made the treaty with. The only vampires that were allowed to live after crossing their paths. That she was still hung up on the damn bloodsucker made him that much angrier.
He was so angry, all the time. The beast inside him wasn't buried very well. Especially when she was around. Sam said control came with time and practice. Until then, his alpha decided, it wasn't safe for him to be around Bella. To really be around many humans at all. School was one thing- mainly because a good portion of his inner circle of friends were the same as he. Things worked differently on the res.
Bella was smart and stubborn, and she'd figured it out. With a little help, of course, but that didn't count. After she goaded Paul into changing in front of her, the wolf was out of the bag. So to speak. Then she'd been reluctantly accepted, and all was right with his world again.
Until she jumped off the cliff and brought the blood-suckers back. Alice. The little one with the visions had come along and snatched his best friend back just when he thought things might be going his way for once. Edward thought she'd died and he was going to commit suicide. Good riddance. Then Bella had ran off to save him. Things hadn't been the same since.
She was going to become one of them. They really didn't have any choice. Logically he knew that. But instinct and emotion made him hate them all for it. Even Bella, to a degree. He hated her right now almost as much as he loved her. She was willingly choosing death over him. She was going to become a monster. Unnatural. Cold. A murdering beast.
Who was he to judge? The teenage wolf's shoulders hunched suddenly. Tears gathered in his young eyes and he fought the despair that closed in on him. He was a monster, just as much as the Cullens. A beast that could erupt at any time and take out those he cared for the most. A temper-tantrum that could turn deadly. Without him really being aware of it. At least Edward was giving her a gift of eternal life. Once bitten, she couldn't be hurt so easily. But she wasn't going to be Bella anymore. Not his Bella, anyway. She was going to be the one thing his kind was created to destroy.
Talk about forbidden love.
A rustling sound brought him out of his thoughts and he was on his feet, facing the intruder in a half-fighting stance. The first thing that popped into his head when he saw the woman was that she was too thin. Almost skeletal, her dress bagged on her tiny form, falling to just below her knees. The night air was chilled, as it usually was even in the middle of summer, but she wasn't shivering. Her skin was white, almost glowing in the moonlight, set off by the darkness of her hair. Her face, while far too thin, was beautiful. A thick feeling squeezed his chest and he found it hard to breathe.
He came towards her, unable to resist the pull. As he came closer, he noticed her hair was a dark red and tangled with leaves. He watched her shiver suddenly and he frowned, wondering where she came from and why she was here. And why couldn't he pull himself away?
One word popped into his mind. The one thing he'd been waiting for, hoping for and dreading all at the same time. The key to forgetting Isabella Swan. Imprinting. His hand had a tremble as he reached toward her face. The warmth of it rivaled his own and he frowned. There was something wrong, she was human- his heightened senses told him that much. But her skin was scalding to the touch. There was something else, an intense energy just under her skin. Power. Too much for her small human form to hold.
She smiled at him, lips curving crookedly. "I'm Willow," she told him, her voice soft and slightly unfocused. Her smile faltered a bit and she looked a little confused for a moment, "I came here because She
called me. You called me. But I don't know where to go from here. My skin burns, but inside I'm cold."
"Jacob Black," he introduced himself and gave in to the overwhelming urge to touch her. She sighed as his large arms closed around her and she was pulled into a strong, safe embrace. He frowned again at the frail feel of her, careful to keep his hold gentle. He picked her up tenderly. "I'm going to take you to people who can help."