Jacob/OC. Post-Eclipse. Elizabeth Foster is your typical grad student. When she interns on a summer research project looking for dire wolves in the Olympic Peninsula, she finds more than she bargained for.
10. Stop the Bleeding
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PART TEN: Stop the Bleeding
I fell into bed as soon as Kat checked us in. With food and painkillers in me, tucked into warm blankets, I was not long for the world.
Again the forest surrounded me. Locked in its embrace, I walked an unfamiliar path. Ahead was darkness, the light fading with every step. But I was not afraid. How could I be?
All around me were the wolves. The size of horses, they kept pace with me as I moved toward the shadows. As we walked, a grey giant came close enough to touch and my fingers itched with the desire to make contact. I gave in, brushing my fingertips against the black-stippled guard hairs on his back. He made a sound I could feel more than hear, nuanced with pleasure, amusement, fondness. But then he moved gently away, as though responding to a silent call. Lifting my head, I searched for the wolf I knew best, but my red-coated wolf was not among them. He would stand out immediately with his massive size and cinnamon pelt, but instead the pack was made drab by his absence.
A glossy black wolf caught my eye. Larger than his red brother, he moved with a fearsome grace, striding along the forest floor like a king in his palace. Our eyes met, and I had the oddest feeling that he had been waiting for me. Once acknowledged, he moved closer, dipping his head like a gentleman asking a lady to dance. I bowed my head in return almost without thinking. We walked side by side for a time, the others dropping back to a respectful distance. I never questioned my safety. I knew with absolute certainty that the majestic ebon wolf meant me no harm.
"Where is he?" Of all the things I might have said, I realized that was the question I most needed an answer to.
The black wolf made a soft sound and stopped, his attention fixed on the way ahead. I strained to see what had his attention and my feet carried me forward even without the mind's consent. The darkness resolved itself into the shape of a wolf. With a certainty I didn't question, I knew it was my wolf. He lay on his side, soaked with blood. Death was near, a fatal wound to his heart spilling out his life's blood.
I don't remember moving, but somewhere between one heartbeat and the next I was beside him. My knees hit the ground, blood soaking through my jeans... blood on the pavement, thick and red... Without hesitating, I gathered him to me, a dead weight that only adrenaline gave me strength to move... so still, so terribly, terribly still... Desperately, I wrapped what little warmth I had around him, cradling his head against my body... feeling for a pulse that no longer beat, the heartbeat that I had once considered a universal constant...
"Please hold on..." I drew a panicky breath, my arms tightening around him. "I'm here now. I'm so sorry, I didn't know. Please don't leave."
"Stay with me..."
I woke up like I was drowning, clawing my way to the surface as I gasped for breath. It took a long moment for my pulse to slow and the shaking to still, until finally I could accept that the nightmare was over. The room was dark, nighttime, I'd slept for hours. My shoulder confirmed that with an angry throbbing, the painkillers long since worn off. Sitting up, my eyes moved to the other bed. Kat was peacefully asleep, I wouldn't disturb her if I could help it.
The bottle of painkillers was on the dresser, it went into the pocket of my sweats. My purse was beside it and I awkwardly fished out my wallet left-handed. Money acquired, I grabbed a key card and headed for the door. Outside it was cold enough to make my bones ache, but I welcomed it. The cold would keep me awake, free of the dream that still nipped at my heels. I hugged myself and hurried down the sidewalk, ducking into the shallow niche that sheltered the vending machines.
I fed the machine and hit the button for Pepsi. It didn't blink, burble, or so much as shiver, it simply did nothing. I frowned and tapped the button again. Nothing. "Dammit." Frowning deeply, I smacked the front of stubborn machine. I didn't want water, I wanted a soda to take my stupid pills with. Was that too much to ask? I clenched my fist, ready to take out my frustrations on the convenient inanimate object, when a hand grabbed my shoulder.
I didn't take the time to think about it, three years of Tae-kwon-do sparring kicked in and I spun, ducking under the arm that held me. There was nowhere to go but against the vending machine, so I put my back to it, dropping into a fighting stance. Fists up, I swore softly as the pain in my shoulder flared exponentially. Even then I didn't drop my stance, although the effort it took to keep my arm steady made my eyes water.
"Whoa." Dark eyes blinked down at me from Jacob Black's face. He was completely astonished, it would have been funny if he hadn't scared the crap out of me.
"What the hell are you doing, sneaking up on people in the middle of the night!" I relaxed, wincing as I cradled my right arm against me. Pain made me extremely grumpy, particularly combined with the failure to obtain my Pepsi.
Jake's expression was oddly uncertain, as though he wasn't sure how to respond. "You seemed to be having some trouble..." He shrugged, which was how I noticed he was shirtless. "Thought I'd see if I could help." Ducking his head, he studied my face in the dim light from the vending machines. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," I said quickly, too quickly to hide another wince as I unwisely shrugged.
"No you're not," his voice went flat, which only irritated me even more. "Why are you running around, barefoot," he eyed my feet, "in the middle of the night?"
"Why is that any of your business?" I snapped. He flinched back, which caught me off-guard. I hadn't figured to land a hit with something so random.
"It's not, I guess." His voice was quiet, gloomy, and suddenly he refused to meet my eyes. Dammit, now I felt bad for snapping.
I sighed. "I woke up, the painkillers had worn off, and since those things tend to make me queasy, I wanted a soda to take them with." Slumping back against the machine, I ran my good hand through my hair. "But this stupid thing doesn't want to cooperate."
"Hm..." Looking thoughtful, Jake eyed the machine.
"I just wanted a Pepsi," I grumbled, sounding a bit pouty about it. Well, could you blame me? It had been a rough 48 hours.
Without warning, his arm slipped around my waist, tugging me to him.
"Hold on, I don't know what-"
"Just hush for a minute," he said firmly, and though he held me against his side, his arm was loose enough that I could easily pull free. I thought that was what I wanted, but my chilled body was enthusiastic about being so close to his warm body. The sensation was a bit like standing near a banked fireplace, the heat radiating gently against your skin. Distracted, I barely noticed as he tapped experimentally on the drink machine.
"What are you doing?" I frowned as he did it again, utterly mystified.
"Getting your Pepsi." He grinned. "There we go." Having identified the appropriate spot, he hit the vending machine with the heel of his hand, the controlled power in that movement making my eyes go wide. It rattled through the stubborn vending machine like a seismic wave, until it hit the right spot... and two cans of Pepsi slid down into the bin. He plucked them up one-handed. "Bonus! One for you, one for me." He handed me a can and kept the other for himself.
"Thanks..." I looked down at the soda I held, and my cheeks colored for no reason I could name. "That was kind of awesome."
He laughed, and it was a joyful sound to hear, sweet and low. "Thanks." Even in the half-light, I could tell that his eyes were dancing.
We ended up perched together on the stairs that led to the second floor, a stolen blanket draped around our shoulders. I thought I'd be cold even with the blanket, but being near Jake was like having a personal sun. "Are you sure you don't have a fever?"
"Positive." He grinned. Then he looked down at me, thoughtful, maybe a little tentative. "There are things you need to know. Things I want to tell you." He hesitated, then shook his head slightly. "But I'd rather not start into that tonight."
"That's fine." I can't say why I left it at that, other than the fact that I believed he wanted to tell me, that he would tell me. How that fit in with going back to Corvallis I had no clue. Thoughts for another night. "I can be patient."
"That's good to know." He looked at me for a long moment, and I could practically hear the gears turning in his head. I shifted a bit, self-conscious under the scrutiny. Whatever he was working himself up to ask, I was pretty sure I didn't want to answer. "I've been meaning to ask, who's Casper?"
I blinked, that was probably the very last question I'd been expecting. "Um. Well, Casper is my cat." I took a sip of my Pepsi. "He's white, long-haired. I found him at Halloween, about three years ago." Right in the middle of that awful semester. "He was just a baby, someone had dumped him out. He needed somebody." I smiled. "So did I."
"A cat?" The look on his face was hilarious.
"You're not a cat person?"
"Not really, no." He shrugged. "I guess I've never spent much time around them. Still, it could be... a complicated relationship." Glancing at me, he frowned. "I know you're in college, but how old are you, Beth?"
Fair question, I supposed. "Twenty-three. I'm a January baby." I toyed with a strand of my hair, wrapping it around my finger. "And I'm in graduate school, actually. I have a degree in biology."
"Wow." He seemed genuinely impressed. "What are you doing in grad school?""
I shrugged, remembering just in time not to use my right shoulder. "Just more bio." I took a deep breath, letting it out as a sigh. "Originally I was all set on going to vet school. But...I kind of messed that up."
"What do you mean, 'messed it up?'" Jake ducked his head again, trying to look into my face.
"Junior year was rough, especially fall semester."
"After Josh died." It wasn't a question, but more as if I'd just confirmed something he suspected. But that wasn't what made me freeze up, my body going still at the sound of Josh's name.
"How did you..." Suddenly something that Kat had said in the car made sense, a softly murmured apology that my tired brain hadn't fully comprehended. She'd told them. "Wow."
"Kat told me," he confirmed quietly. "Don't get mad at Kat. I didn't give her much of a choice."
"You don't know Kat very well." I was reeling, unsure of how I should react. "She knows better." She did. But she also didn't hesitate to meddle where she felt it necessary. "I don't like talking about it," I said finally. "In fact I'd really rather you forgot about it completely."
"Why?" Jake seemed genuinely startled at the thought. "It's a part of you. An important part. Shoving it into a closet and trying to forget about it?" He shook his head. "Not smart. Then you've got it jumping out to grab you when you're not expecting it."
It was my turn to be startled. "Are you speaking from experience?"
"Maybe." His eyes went flat and unreadable. I stared at him, trying to break through the wall with little success. Fine then, we'd both have our secrets.
Except... I found myself talking anyway, trying to explain. It was like I needed him to understand. "It's just hard. You know, thinking about it?" Shivering, I huddled into the blanket a bit more, I'd noticed a while ago that he'd given up on pretending he needed his half. "It's like, my life is cleanly divided by that date." I sighed, trying to put into words things that defied them. "I'm not sure that I'm even the same person I was, then."
He shook his head. "You're not. It's impossible to be the same." He paused, and when he spoke again, he was looking down at me with this amazingly soft, sweet look in his eyes. It took my breath away. "If you lose someone, and you stay the same, then you haven't got a chance of surviving. It's the change that saves your life. Or maybe the change is what lets someone else save you." He chuckled, then reached out to lightly touch my hair, stroking it away from my face. "I'm not sure about that part yet."
A smile tugged at my lips. "Let me know when you figure that out."
"You'll be the first one to know." He hesitated, then carefully put his arm around me, tugging me closer to the warmth of his body. Oddly it didn't bother me like it might have. "You're cold, and dawn's not far off. You should probably get back in bed."
"I'm okay." Actually, I was very comfortable. He made a good pillow.
"Kat's going to think I'm trying to seduce you." There was definitely mischief in his voice.
"I think Kat might be right about that," I said sleepily, not bothering to open my eyes.
"Maybe." Okay, now the mischief was all but spilling over. "Would that be so bad?"
I smiled. "I'm not sure about that part yet."
He chuckled, but played his part. "Let me know when you figure it out."
"You'll be the first one to know..."
- Let Sleeping Wolves Lie
- The Magic Words
- Beware of Dog
- The Silver Cord
- An Uneasy Truce
- Constructive Insanity
- Josh Wolfe
- Now and Forever
- First Light of Dawn
- Stop the Bleeding
- Stolen Moments
- Waking the Dreamer
- Trouble in Paradise
- Almost Doesn't Count
- Morning After Cure
- Sister of the Pack
- The Caterpillar Mating Dance
- Practice Makes Perfect
- Sound and Fury
- Storm Warning
- Heavy In Your Arms
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- 29 Apr 08
- 22 Jul 10
- In Progress