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In Pursuit of Normalcy

Summary:
Two years after reaching full maturity, Nessie Cullen is living on the island of Oahu, where she escaped in order to avoid the unpleasant truths surrounding her very existence. What will happen when the only man she’s ever loved makes a sudden reappearance in her life? Nessie POV. Post-Breaking Dawn. Thank you so much to achelle131 for the gorgeous banner!


Notes:
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight franchise and am making no money from writing this. No copyright infringement is intended. Please let me know what you think! It only takes a moment to leave a quick review, and it's a great source of motivation for fanfic writers to keep writing! Also, if you enjoy this story you may also enjoy my story Missing Dawn. Please see my author's page for the link. (It's not posted here because of the smut factor.)


4. Sacred Falls

Rating 3/5   Word Count 4519   Review this Chapter

Several hours later, I was trudging through the tropical undergrowth somewhere near Hauula on the North Shore of the island, Jacob right on my heels. Dragging ever further behind us, I could hear Chelsa bantering lightly with James.

“You two wanna keep up?” I called over my shoulder as I paused, waiting for of the two of them to catch up. I took a swig from my water bottle as I did so, even though I hadn’t even broken a sweat. I’d perfected my habit of imitating normal humans long ago, even if I wasn’t one.

“Nessie, not all of us can be natural athletes,” Chelsa called back, affronted. “I’m afraid you’re just going to have to have some patience for those of us, like myself, who are less athletically inclined.”

I winked at Jacob, who leaned back against the trunk of a tree looking as relaxed as I felt. His arms were crossed over his impressive bare chest in a casual manner, and I had to force myself not to stare. I still wasn’t accustomed to his inexplicable reemergence into my life, and a part of me felt like I would wake up and find that this had all been some incredibly bizarre, extraordinarily pleasurable dream.

We’d made love once more that morning, in the shower, after a rather interesting discussion with Chelsa on the lanai. I felt myself blushing as I remembered the way his large hands had lifted me by the hips, quite literally impaling me on his body repeatedly until the both of us were veritable puddles of goo on my shower floor.

Jacob smirked at me, and I knew that he knew what I was thinking about.

I blushed again, looking away from his face and focusing on the bright, tropical pattern of his brand new board shorts, which we’d bought about an hour ago at the Wal-Mart in Mililani. Jacob had confessed to me, somewhat disturbingly, that he’d been recycling the same pair of jeans since coming to the island, sans underwear.

“That’s disgusting,” I’d groaned when he’d confessed this to me in my kitchen that morning after consuming his third slice of cold leftover pizza. “You’re telling me you’ve been going commando for a week in the same crusty pants??”

He’d crossed his arms over his chest, looking insulted. “Hey, I don’t remember you complaining about me smelling last night,” he’d responded. “Or earlier, for that matter, when you literally started riding me while I was still asleep.”

“Sure, sure,” I’d conceded in an unconscious imitation of him. In fact I hadn’t noticed any unpleasant odors emanating from him. In fact he smelled very nice, in his musky, woodsy, particularly male sort of way. He must’ve been taking advantage of those outdoor showers on the beach. I’d smiled in amusement, imagining him showering nude on the beach at night. That definitely would’ve made for some interesting “sightseeing” had unsuspecting tourists come along at the wrong moment.

At that moment there was a great rustling disturbance behind us, and Chelsa and James broke through the foliage, sweat glistening on their faces and dampening the hair around their temples.

“I thought you said it wasn’t a long hike,” Chelsa complained, wiping the damp blonde hairs from her face as she snatched the water bottle from my grasp, downing about half of it in a matter of seconds.

“It’s not – It’s only two miles. And you might wanna conserve some of the water,” I said in amusement as she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. Next to her, James leaned against the nearest tree trunk, looking warily at Jacob. Jacob’s impressive stature and evident lack of exertion were undoubtedly intimidating to the skinny young man.

Wordlessly, Chelsa handed the bottle back to me, shooting me an annoyed look.

“I promise it’ll seem worth the hike when we get there,” I assured her, slipping the bottle back inside my backpack.

Together, the four of us resumed our hike, Jacob towering over my small frame, walking just a little too close to me. His presence was overbearing. I couldn’t stop myself from turning every few feet in order to sneak a peek at him.

He smiled, sliding his hand into mine briefly and giving it a gentle squeeze. That simple gesture of affection was almost enough to make my heart melt.

“Didn’t, like, a bunch of people die out here or something?” Chelsa called to me after several moments of silence had passed.

“Yeah,” I responded, tearing my gaze once more from Jacob. “In 1999 there was a landslide that killed eight people, I believe it was. Injured several more. The park’s been closed since.”

“So doesn’t that mean we’re trespassing?” James asked, sounding a little worried.

“Technically,” I answered, and then paused. “Chelsa, you’ve lived here a lot longer than I have. How do I know this and you don’t?” I asked with a laugh.

“Because I’m not a know-it-all pain-in-the-ass,” she growled in response.

“That’s right, you’re more of the ignorant sort of pain-in-the-ass.”

“Real cute, Nessie,” she replied, rolling her eyes for James’s benefit.

I flashed Jacob a grin, letting him know that this kind of annoyed banter was common with us, and he smiled back, clearly enjoying himself.

“If we don’t die in a landslide today,” I heard Chelsa add in a voice that was obviously only meant for James’s ears but which my preternatural senses picked up as easily as if she’d shouted it in my ear, “I’ll kill her myself for dragging me out here.”

“A little exercise won’t kill you, Chelse,” I called back to her teasingly. “Besides, I promised it would be worth it, didn’t I?”

“Give me a break, Ness, you know I have a hangover,” she replied. “I agreed to come – can’t that be enough?”

“Sure. Fine. Whatever.”

It was the hottest part of the day, and I really couldn’t blame her for being slightly irritable. The sun was beating down through the foliage as hot as if it was the middle of summer rather than December. I knew that if I were completely human that I would probably be just as miserably hot as she was.

I’d come up with the idea of the four of us hiking out here in part because I wanted to show Jacob the secret beauty of the island that I’d come to know myself over the last few months. Previously I’d explored mostly on my own, my preternatural capabilities allowing me to leave no part of the island uncharted while my inherent immortality resulted in my exploring with a fearless abandon bordering on recklessness.

Alone, I’d scaled the cliffs, bare-handed and with no equipment. I’d gone for long swims in the ocean at night during prime feeding time for sharks, almost hoping to attract one of the more dangerous varieties. While my knowledge of sharks may be embarrassingly abysmal, they nevertheless didn’t seem to be attracted to my cold-blooded scent. At the thought of sharks, I unexpectedly found myself thinking of Emmett and his love of wrestling vicious animals. I was betting he would enjoy killing a great white just for the thrill of fighting it.

I shook my head, deliberately returning my thoughts to my reasons for wanting Jacob to see Sacred Falls, just one of the many waterfalls on the island. It drew me to it for some unspoken reason. It was a mystery to me. It was beautiful.

Perhaps part of the reason I was attracted to this place was because of the tragedy that had occurred in 1999 – the mortality of those poor hikers; mortality that I myself would never possess – but I wouldn’t allow myself to dwell on this possibility.

Nor would I allow myself to dwell on the reasons that I had insisted that Chelsa and James accompany us to this beautiful place. I wouldn’t dwell on the fact that I was scared of being alone for too long with Jacob out of fear that it would force us to speak of the things that we hadn’t said to one another since his inexplicable return to my life just last night.

At least in the company of my friends there were only a limited number of things we could say to each other. There could be no mention of ‘vampires’ or ‘werewolves’ or ‘changelings’ or ‘imprinting.’ In the company of friends, Jacob and I were simply two young lovers reunited after an extended absence. We were normal.

My thoughts were abruptly interrupted when I realized we had reached our destination: the deep, narrow canyon, at the end of which was the eighty-foot waterfall that the park had been named after. Almost twenty years ago eight people had died at Sacred Falls on Mother’s Day. Almost twenty years ago this park had been closed off indefinitely to the public.

“It’s beautiful,” Chelsa said, stepping up behind me, her blue eyes the size of saucers in her pretty face.

“Told you it was worth it,” I said with a smile, stepping into the rocky canyon with Jacob.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” she complained, following behind me, all the while glancing around at the walls of the canyon warily, undoubtedly thinking about landslides and dead bodies.

“Do you need me to quote you the statistical chances of dying in a landslide?” I called back to her. “I assure you they’re less than your chances of dying in a car crash on the way home.”

Jacob guffawed at the look of irritation that Chelsa shot at the back of my head.

“Hey, Black, why don’t you tell your girlfriend to shut it?” she asked him, and Jacob just laughed even harder.

After several careful minutes of picking our way over boulders to avoid twisted ankles, we finally reached the back of the canyon where the falls, majestic and glimmering in the midday tropical sunshine, emptied itself into a deep, icy pool of water.

Immediately, the four of us stripped down to our swimsuits and carefully stepped out into the pool. Well, we were all careful except for Jacob, of course, who decided to get a running start despite the rocky terrain, his enormously muscular frame hitting the water in a resounding splash.

Wading in the shallow part of the water, I watched as Jacob disappeared before reemerging across the pool near the waterfall. “Come on out here, Ness,” he called, indicating a ledge carved into the right side of the canyon wall, not too far from the bank.

Glancing around, I saw that Chelsa and James were currently sitting on a boulder protruding partway out of the water, their heads close together. They seemed to have found a means of entertaining themselves.

Shrugging, I swam out to the outcropping cut into the canyon wall that he’d indicated, and which he’d beaten me to. He was sitting on it, one strong, golden arm reaching down to pull me up.

He did so effortlessly, and I was suddenly sitting on the outcropping next to him, my bare legs starkly white next to his tanned ones.

Jacob smiled at me, placing one large hand on my thigh affectionately, and I couldn’t help but smile back into his black puppy-ish eyes. He had such a beautiful smile.

“Interesting company you keep,” he commented lightly, indicating the couple who was now treading water several meters out.

“They’re all right. Chelsa especially. We bicker, but it’s good-natured, y’know? And James is okay. He’s nice enough; treats her well.”

“I think he’s a bit intimidated by me.”

“No,” I said, over-doing the sarcasm quite a bit. “Imagine someone being intimidated by someone of your size.”

Jacob looked at me, his eyes gleaming with humor. “Does my size intimidate you?”

I found myself blushing yet again, thinking about the three times we’d made love since last night. Just thinking about it made me want him again. Suddenly I found myself wishing that I hadn’t invited Chelsa and James, the possibility of awkward and uncomfortable conversations aside. “Not so much as it makes me want you,” I admitted.

“Do you want me right now?” he asked, reaching out one large hand to tuck an errant curl behind my ear and leaning into me. Heat and pheromones radiated from his body in electric currents, and I felt a familiar flood of warmth between my legs in reaction to his proximity. It was amazing how readily my body responded to him. I knew that my physical reaction was mostly likely a result of the imprinting – an assurance that we’d mate – but that knowledge certainly didn’t make my desire for him any less potent.

“Yes,” I admitted, watching as his full lips turned up in a smug grin. “Do you want me right now?” I couldn’t resist asking.

And then his face was serious and he said, “I always want you, Nessie. Forever and always.”

I was quiet, staring straight ahead at the tropical foliage visible on top of the canyon. The sky was the most gorgeous shade of sapphire blue that I’d ever seen. There wasn’t a more beautiful place on earth.

“Jacob – ”

“You don’t have to say anything, Nessie. Not right now. Let’s just enjoy this moment.”

I smiled at him gratefully. There was much to say, no doubt about it. The last angry, bitter words we’d spoken to each other hung in the air between us, but I was so happy to be with him again that I wasn’t ready to think about what happens next. I wished this moment could last… I wished we could be here like this, at Sacred Falls, with no complications, no baggage, just… us, frozen forever in time.

You are frozen forever in time, I reminded myself. Jacob, on the other hand, is a mystery. It wasn’t so much a question of if Jacob would start aging again, but rather when. At least, as far as anyone knew.

In fact, since the Cullen clan had left Forks and no threat in the form of vampires had surfaced in recent years in the immediate area, Jacob was the only one of the changelings – or werewolves if you preferred – that could still phase and apparently wasn’t yet aging again.

We had our theories about this, me being the first and obvious one. After all, Jacob hadn’t imprinted on me for no reason at all.

Sam Uley theorized that imprinting was first and foremost a mating force designed for the express purpose of procreation; and that only women who were capable of conceiving children that would carry the changeling gene would be imprinted upon. If his theory was true, then what did this mean in the case of me and Jacob?—that we could create a part-vampire, part-human child that carried the changeling gene?

Carlisle believed so. I had regular monthly cycles, just like an ordinary human woman – a strong indication that I was fertile. And if my father, a vampire, was capable of impregnating my mother, a human at the time, then there was no reason to think that Jacob wouldn’t be capable of impregnating me, particularly if that’s what the imprinting was designed to do. I shivered at the thought, half strangely aroused by the idea, but also quite disturbed, especially when I realized that Jacob and I had taken no precautions last night or today.

When we had been… together, before, I had been on the pill, prescribed to me by Carlisle, who was my personal physician as well as my adopted grandfather. Assuming that Jacob and I were compatible, the pills had worked, amazingly, on my part-vampire physiology.

The idea of conceiving a child scared me because I didn’t know whether it would be mortal or immortal. After all, it would be more human than vampire. While Jacob wasn’t entirely human himself, he wasn’t not human either. He was more human than I was, at any rate. And I couldn’t imagine watching any child that we might conceive grow old and die while I remained ageless. It was unbearable. It was mind-boggling, and it filled me with unease.

Quickly, I did the math in my head, calculating where exactly I was in my cycle. Going off of the first day of my last period, I figured that I would be ovulating in about two days. And I knew that live sperm could live in the reproductive tract for up to three days.

“You seem to be thinking pretty intently,” Jacob interrupted suddenly, nudging me lightly with his elbow.

“What? Oh.” I smiled at him reassuringly. “I’m just thinking about…everything and nothing all at the same time.”

He kissed my forehead while reaching up to lightly tracing the curve of my cheek with one finger. “I’ve missed you so much, Nessie,” he whispered, leaning in to kiss me.

I kissed him back, suddenly grateful that Chelsa and James were here after all. I couldn’t allow Jacob to have sex with me again without taking some kind of precaution, and I really wasn’t in the mood to explain it to him right now. Dammit, why’s it always the girl who has to think about birth control? As if guys think an unplanned pregnancy wouldn’t affect them too.

“So have you seen my mom lately?” I asked suddenly as his lips lifted from mine, moving to press a gentle kiss against my forehead.

I realized that I hadn’t asked him about my family since our reunion last night, so wrapped up had I been in the idea of being with him again. Even so, I was eager for some first-hand news – never mind that I received regular packages and letters from my parents – and I knew my mom visited Forks and La Push as frequently as possible.

Jacob smiled, once again reaching a hand to tuck a wayward curl behind my ear. “Yeah, she’s been around quite a bit. Can’t keep her away, actually, since, well… I’m sure she told you my dad hasn’t been doing too good, and Charlie and Sue’ve all but moved into the house. Gets a bit crowded at times, but it’s always good to see Bells and Charlie.”

My heart constricted in my chest in longing at the mention of my mother and grandfather, but at the same time I felt suddenly and absolutely selfish. I hadn’t even thought about Billy since Jacob’s abrupt appearance last night. I’d been so wrapped up in my own superbly self-seeking needs that I hadn’t even given it a single thought. What kind of a horrible creature was I, anyway? Other than the obvious, I added. “Oh, Jake, I’m so sorry about Billy.”

Jacob laughed lightly at the seriousness of my tone. “He’s not dead yet, Ness. Besides, he’s tough, y’know? He’ll pull through, but if he doesn’t…” He shrugged sadly. “Well, he’s had a good life – a life he can be proud of.”

Despite Jacob’s nonchalant manner, I knew him too well not to be able to see the pain rooted in his black eyes, hidden just beneath the brave facade. I felt a twinge of guilt. I should’ve been there for him. I should be there for him now.

“Hey, Charlie’s doing well,” Jacob added as an afterthought, his black eyes settling on something on the canyon wall on the other side of the pool. “He and Sue hardly leave us alone. They’ve even offered to move Billy into their house – section off most of the living room for him or something like that, but Dad won’t hear of it. Says he doesn’t want to be away from the reservation, and he doesn’t want to intrude on Sue’s hospitality, but I know better. He doesn’t like to feel like he’s being ‘taken care of,’ y’know? Proud, stubborn old man.” This last part was stated with a supreme amount of affection.

I smiled as I listened to Jacob talk. It was nice hearing about things back home, and I suddenly missed Charlie and Billy with an acute intensity that was almost physically painful. I felt ashamed that I hadn’t been back to see them, even if I had been avoiding Jacob. No reason not to go to Forks now, I suppose.

“Charlie misses you, by the way,” he added suddenly, as if reading my thoughts, and I vaguely wondered whether he was saying this in order to convince me to come home. “He talks about you constantly. You should see all the pictures of you he has lined up on the mantel, crammed in with all of your mom’s school pictures. And the pictures that Sue put up of Leah and Seth, of course, and Seth’s family.”

Seth had imprinted on a Quileute girl several years back, I knew, and had married her shortly thereafter. The girl had recently popped out their second child that undoubtedly carried the changeling gene. Leah had married too, but as she’d guessed and confessed to Jacob years ago, was evidently barren, judging by her inability to conceive.

At the thought of Leah I was abruptly reminded that she had been the catalyst for the conversation that had lead to my leaving Jacob in the first place.

“I miss him too,” I whispered, pushing those unpleasant thoughts aside and focusing on my memories of Charlie’s crinkly-eyed smile, and weekends where he and Billy would take me fishing, and I would sleep in my mother’s old bed.

“Come home, then,” Jacob whispered, his eyes boring into mine intently. “Come home with me, Nessie.”

I knew my eyes were as wide as saucers. I had expected the request – had so, in fact, since last night when he’d shown up in my bedroom – and yet the request completely caught me off guard at the same time.

“Jacob, why… I don’t… why are…”

Urgh. I had no idea what to say. All my reasons for leaving in the first place seemed so far away… too far for me to think on. As usual, Jacob’s mere presence made it entirely impossible for me to focus on anything other than him for too long.

“Are you two gonna stay over there all day??”

Looking up, I saw Chelsa waving at me from the bank, a blanket spread out on the ground with all our food laid out in my roommate’s surprisingly organized fashion.

“Let’s eat lunch!” she called.

Jacob smiled, placing his hand on my back just before he shot me a look that clearly said, “We’ll talk about it later.”

I gulped. And then I was suddenly splashing into the water, the sound of Jacob’s guffaws reaching my ears a split-second before my senses were engulfed in jade green water. Before I could even begin kicking to the surface, Jacob was next to me, pulling my face to his beneath the water, a mischievous expression on his face as he kissed me.

I kissed him back, my head arguing with my heart; my body battling with my mind.

It was so right.

And yet it wasn’t. I told myself the thing I’d told myself a thousand times in the past: He only thinks he loves you because he’s imprinted on you.

So what? I silently argued with myself as I kissed him back, my arms wrapping around the silky-smooth skin of his shoulders. If he feels like he loves you, then what exactly makes his love ‘not real’? If he truly feels it? It was the same counterargument that Jacob had used on that fateful morning to try and convince me to stay.

Free will, I answered myself. He didn’t choose me. I was thrust upon him him by forces beyond his control.

Oh, fuck it. This is giving me a freakin’ headache.

We broke the surface of the water and I breathed in the delicious island air. Jacob had pulled away slightly and was gazing at me, his fingertips gently stroking my back, a humorous expression on his face.

“You are so going down for that, Jacob Black,” I said, punching him in the shoulder, hard, and then biting him for good measure.

“Ow, ow, Nessie!” he laughed, swatting me away and rubbing at the fresh bite mark on his shoulder that was already beginning to mend itself, scar tissue forming over my teeth marks.

I licked the fresh blood off my lips, savoring the sweet flavor.

“Parasite.”

“Pup.”

We laughed together, and I forgot to dread our later conversation. It surely wouldn’t be pleasant, but at that moment I couldn’t think about it. Together, we swam for the bank where Chelsa and James waited for us, the two of them sunbathing and laughing quietly together.

Chelsa lifted the sunglasses off her face, peering at Jacob with amusement as he approached, plopping down, still-wet, on the blanket. “Is that a hickey, Black?” she asked, the corners of her mouth turning up in amusement.

“Way t’go, Ness. Aggression’s good in a woman.”

“Er… thanks, Chelse,” I replied, picking up my beach towel and towel-drying my now-frizzy curls. I knew that it would be an atrocious mess to try and get all of the tangles out of it later. For about the millionth time I considered shaving my head and being done with it.

I might’ve done so long ago if I didn’t think that both Rosalie and Alice would kill me.

After working my hair back into a messy bun, I plopped down in Jacob’s lap, reaching for a couple of the sandwich squares that Chelsa had set out on a paper plate. It wasn’t blood, I mused, but it was certainly edible. My roommate’s culinary skills were surprisingly advanced.

“Still hungry after taking a bite out of me?” Jacob whispered into my ear.

I snorted, effectively lodging a bit of food up my nose. I punched him lightly. “As sweet as you are, babe, I need more nourishment than that,” I whispered back.

He grinned back, and I knew he’d enjoyed me calling him ‘babe’ like I had before, when things had been good between us; before I’d come to the horrible conclusions that had propelled me to leave in the first place.

We ate, the four of us chatting companionably, and by the time the meal had ended even James seemed to feel comfortable enough in Jacob’s presence to open up a bit.

I laid back, my head settling in Jacob’s lap, enjoying the sound of the waterfall in the background and the intermingled scents of the tropical flowers and Jacob’s blood intermingled in the light, December Hawaiian breeze. My eyes drifted closed.

“You want some of this, Nessie?”

I opened my eyes to see Chelsa holding out a bottle of sun block, SPF fifty. I groaned inwardly, reaching out to take the proffered bottle. I abhorred the chemical scent of the stuff and the greasy feel of it, but it was necessary for my human charade. After all, no one would believe that my ghostly white skin was incapable of burning in this tropical climate.

Jacob snatched it before I could get a firm grip on it. “Let me,” he said, all but flipping me off of his lap and onto my stomach on my beach towel. Reaching in front of me, I grabbed his abandoned t-shirt, crumpling it into a ball to use as a pillow as his strong hands began kneading at the armor-like flesh of my back.

I didn’t experience normal human weaknesses such as muscle pains, but it was nice, nevertheless, to feel his large, warm hands on my cold skin. I sighed in pleasure, breathing in his heady scent that clung to his t-shirt. This was indescribably nice.

The gentle breeze washed against my skin, calming and soothing as surely as Jacob’s fingers were…