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Finished. Six years after Breaking Dawn, a brutal murder is committed near Forks. When called in the middle of the night, Charlie Swan rushes off to do his civic duty and protect the public. Three hours later, he returns home with a new ward: the only survivor of the double homicide. From the beginning, it is clear that the poor thing needs a new start, a new life- and someone to save her from her old one, especially when ghosts from the past resurface. And, with Nessie determined to overcome her own demons, the two realize that friendship can come from the strangest places.

All of this belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Duh…

24. Chapter 24

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2135   Review this Chapter

Chapter Twenty-Four––

She sat in the shower for hours, letting the hot water pour over her. Steam rose up all around her, billowing like ominous fog, shrouding her from all others. Like she cared. The scalding water rushed over her, burning her skin. The painful heat was purifying, burning away her sins and her feelings, leaving her to sulk in remorse. It was antagonistically numbing. After forty minutes of unbearable heat, her skin was burned and a shiny red; she could no longer feel anything. Eventually, the water seemed to seep through her skin down to her soul, and burn away her remorse, her sadness, her regret, until all that was left was an empty shell. It was so much easier to be empty that to face the world.

He had left her, left her for some ugly girl with four eyes, buck teeth, shiny black hair and big boobs. Brady had been right: Iris was not jiggly enough for Seth’s tastes. He liked girls with boobs, not butts. He was out of her league. For once in her life, Iris had gotten second place, and that only added to her embarrassment. The man she had like so much, the man she thought she might love, had used and discarded her in favor of that skinny little dork. She wanted to hate him, and hate Germain, but Iris could only muster up guilt and self-loathing. Okay, so she could hate Germain, but what else was new?

After hours and hours under the scalding water, just when it was starting to turn lukewarm and her shoulders were blistering with painful but numb wounds, there was knock on the door. She did not answer it; she did not want to see anyone in her humiliation, scars visible for all to see. But the person was persistent.

Nahuel slowly opened the shower door and turned off the water. Wrapping her in a fluffy towel meant for exfoliation and not seared skin treatment, he picked her up and carried her back to her room. No––to Leah’s room. This wasn’t her house, these weren’t her possessions, and this wasn’t her family. This was a stranger’s life.

Careful not to offend her, he helped into underwear, sweats and a bra––he didn’t make her put a shirt on. Taking her hair, and coiling around the top of her head like tribal women did, he carefully saw to the burns that now littered her body. Was it pity? Iris didn’t care. Maybe if she stopped hurting herself and using pain as a release, people would stop pitying her. It was a thought to ponder later, but right then, she did not care. She was just tired; she wanted to sleep forever. Like Sleeping Beauty: go to sleep for a hundred years and wake up to a brand new world. Seth would be gone in that world, long dead with Four-Eyes.

Nahuel did not speak as he prepared a meal for her. He spoon fed her berries and cherrios, something light and mushy that she did not have to work at. Every muscle in her body was beyond the point of exhaustion, drained by the emotional stress from that morning. After she had eaten enough to satisfy the hybrid, and he had cleaned up the mess, Nahuel carried her back upstairs and sat her on Leah’s bed. Only then, did he speak.

“Iris?” he softly called to her in her stupor. “Iris, can you hear me?”

She could, but talking was the last thing she wanted to do. Instead, she chose to stare blankly at a dark spot on the wall, and ignore everything else. That was easier.

“Iris,” Nahuel called again. “Talk to me, Iris. Talk to me,”

She did not want to talk. Talking meant facing the facts, Seth’s betrayal, Germain’s subsequent victory. Iris was not ready to deal with all of that yet. It was better to live in denial, and forget that it all happened, even if it was just for a short time.

“Don’t make me slap you,” Nahuel threatened her. “I need to hear you speak. Tell me: are you okay?”

She sighed. “No,” she answered shortly. Dumb ass. How could she be alright when the man she loved––now she could admit it, the bastard––was in love with someone else. Her heart had broken, shattered into a million pieces, beyond repair. For at least a brief time, she wanted to sulk and be miserable and be happy in her misery.

“That’s alright,” Nahuel told her, “You are allowed to not be okay,”

She rolled her eyes and sniffed. “No shit,” she furiously wiped tears way from her eyes. She was so sick of crying. She cried over her her parents, over her brother, over school and over fear. She did not want to waste her tears and dehydrate herself further over some guy: some stupid and annoying and handsome and sweet and amazing guy. She started to sob all over again.

Nahuel pulled her in to his chest. He let her sob all over him, and stain one of his only shirts with her salty tears. Her snot mingled with her tears, smearing into a crappy cocktail of grossness. And Nahuel was amazing as he gently patted her back, letting her sob out all of her anger and frustration. He did not care about his shirt, surprisingly, but more about her. “Let it all out,” he crooned softly. “Let it all out,”

And she did.

Almost twenty minutes later, when she had cried out all of her tears, hiccuped for a time and then gave up, deciding it was better to bottle up her emotions again and have another sob fest, she pulled back, sniffing. “Thanks,” she said as she rubbed her nose, cleaning away all the snot.

“It was my pleasure,” he told her in his gentle, slight accent.

She chuckled. “Yeah, because you wanted to spend your afternoon letting some dumb ass girl sob all over you,”

“You’re worth it,” he told her.

Thankfully, she was out of tears, so Iris did not start sobbing all over again. “Thanks,” she said honestly. “You’re awesome,”

He chuckled. “I know,” he joked.

Iris swiped a hand through her hair, pulling it tight back over her head. “I don’t know how I’m going to face the pack ever again,” she suddenly confessed, desperate to talk about the pounding chaos in her head. “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life,”

“You face them with a brave face,” Nahuel staunchly told her. “You have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. He was a fool to leave you,”

“You have no idea just how many times I’ve heard that, recently,” Iris snorted. “But I don’t think I can. They’ll all laugh at me,”

“No, they won’t, he reassured her. “It has happened to others, and the pack still accepts them,” he pointed out.

“Who? Leah?” she barked. “Yeah, everyone just loves Leah and her forced company. They always want her around,”

Nahuel shot her a look that clearly stated that he sarcasm was not appreciated. “You won’t be forced on them,” he told her.

“Old Quil is trying to force me on them,” she snapped. “He wants me to stay here forever, and frolic like some stupid, naked hippie in the forest.”

Nahuel laughed loudly. “I am very sure that they do not frolic in the forest,”

“But they are naked,” she pointed out.

“True,” he conceded.

“I don’t ever want to see these people again,” she declared. “I don’t want to look at their faces, their pity, I don’t want their scorn, their anger. I don’t want to be a wolf. I don’t want any of it,”

“Then don’t,” he suggested.

Iris blinked. “What?” she stuttered.

“Don’t stay if you don’t want to,” he repeated. “You’ve said it before, this isn’t your home. This isn’t your family. You have no reason to stay if you don’t want to. There is nothing to keep you here,”

“Yeah, but Old Quil said––”

“Said what? That you can’t leave because you are their shaman? Did you ever consider the fact that he might have been lying to keep you here? You are a rare talent, Iris, the only soothesayer in the world. Keeping this power within the pack would be a chief concern among their elders.”

“Well, yeah,” she conceded. “But Dr. Cullen also said something about keeping me safe from the Volturi,” she reminded him.

“That was only if they ever found out about you,” countered Nahuel. “As far as I know, no one would betray you to them. Not the Cullens who are your family, not the wolves who are your pets, and who hate the Volturi. You are safe to leave this place whenever you so chose,”

He was right. She could leave whenever she wanted to. Nothing kept her her: no family, no friends, no lover or home, and certainly not fear. Nothing was holding her back. Why she was so reluctant to leave was a mystery to her, especially when the idea sounded so romantic and appealing. Leaving would solve all of her problems.

“You’re right,” she whispered, awed. “You are so right,” she said.

“I know,” Nahuel stated. His next statement through Iris so off kilter that if she had not been sitting down, she would have fallen. “Run away with me,”

Her lungs collapsed and her eyes dilated. That was the last thing she expected. But what was even more startling was the short-breathed answer that tumbled from her lips. “Yes,” she whispered.

It was Nahuel’s turn to blink. Clearly, he was shocked by her answer, but the handsome smile that broke out on his face showed his excitement. “Excellent!” he cried. “Excellent!”

Iris licked her lips, as she shook her head back and forth, shaking with adrenaline. “Yeah,” she said. “Excellent.”

“Come on,” Nahuel picked her up effortlessly and set her on her feet. “Let’s go,”

“Alright,” she said, spinning around in a quick circle. “Okay. Yeah,” she said to herself. Aimlessly grabbing at her favorite clothes––the ones that were coincidentally wadded up all over the floor––Iris stuffed them quickly into the same backpack she used to run away earlier. After it was stuffed tot he brim with clothes, and her sketchbook, Iris slipped it over her shoulders. “Ready,” she staunchly announced.

Nahuel grinned. “You remind me of a character in a movie I saw once,” he told her.

She shrugged. “Can’t help that,” she told him.

Still grinning, he said, “I know. Now, come on. Chief Swan and the Clearwaters will return home soon. We need to be long gone by then,”

“I can’t run as fast as you,” she said as she followed him down the wooden stairs.

Nahuel looked back over her as he opened the door. “Who said we were running?”

Iris followed him out of the house and gasped when she saw the shiny black truck that sat in the driveway. “Nahuel!” she cried. “Where did you get this?”

“I borrowed it from Emmett,” he confessed with an abashed grin. “He’ll never miss it,”

“Or, you mean he won’t miss it until we are long gone,” Iris guessed.

“Yeah,” Nahuel nodded. “He won’t miss it until then,” he agreed. Starting the engine, he flared the engine and chuckled at Iris’ loud whoop. “Ready?”

“Hell, yeah!” Iris laughed. The smile on her face did not reach her eyes, and the pain was still evident on her face. She was not as happy as she pretended, and he could see it easily. But he would agree to act with her, and hope for the best.

“Then, let’s go,” he said.

They sped off into the sunset with the windows rolled down. The wind whipped at her hair, wrapping it around her face, hiding her from the rest of the world; protecting her just like Nahuel. Twenty minutes or so out of La Push, the farthest extensions that the pack would run, they sped by the line without looking back. Well, Iris allowed herself a quick glance back. She saw a naked boy crouching in the woods, with dark eyes watching her. His eyes were keen, but she was not sure if they were that good. He probably was not sure if he actually saw Iris or some other girl with dark hair. Hopefully, he would run back to the Clearwaters and see if was truly her. By then, they would be long gone.