Leaving Behind the Rain
AU - Renee hates Forks. She takes her baby and leaves. This is the story of what Bella's teenage years would have been like if Charlie had followed them.
Disclaimer: This is fan fiction.
6. Chapter 5
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2492 Review this Chapter
"I can't believe Harry let her go back to work there, what with Dr. Fang and all. I mean, why -"
"It isn't for you to ask why, Jared. We decided together."
Bella would have recognized Jared's voice anywhere, and the other was vaguely familiar as well. The third, though, she couldn't place at all.
"Well, it seems stupid," the unknown boy growled angrily. "We can't protect her there. She should stay on the res. Everyone should stay on the res."
"Sue knows she's outside our protection, and she's willing to accept that. Billy thinks it's unlikely the doctor will lose control. He works with blood every day and it doesn't seem to tempt him. It's the others he worries about."
Bella figured out that the voice of reason was Sam Uley, who had occasionally babysat Alex and Jacob when they'd all been a lot younger. She hadn't seen him around for a long time, but she recalled perfectly the rumors that had been going around about him over the last few weeks. He'd given up a college scholarship and stayed on the res. By rights, he ought to be in Sacramento by now, studying. But here he was, whispering in the forest with the first boy she'd ever kissed, and a very angry stranger. She took an unconscious step forward and then winced when a stick snapped under her foot.
There was an abrupt wrestling of leaves and branches and then she was looking at three Quileute boys - Jared and Paul, she realized abruptly, and Sam. And it wasn't just Jared who'd grown tall. They were all approaching seven feet! Paul was the angry one, of course, she knew him too, though not as well as Jared. He was scowling at her, even though Sam looked entirely serene. Jared only looked slightly embarrassed, as he always did when she was around.
And suddenly it clicked for her. They were the ‘too few protectors’ Billy had mentioned. It explained the rumors about Sam, his decision not to leave the res…..it might even explain why he’d left Leah. She felt her face heat as she realized, but she didn't wait for them to demand an explanation of her eavesdropping.
"I just thought I'd let you know you're close enough to the path to be heard," she said quietly. Then she dropped her voice even further. "So no more Dr. Fang talk, alright?"
Even Paul's angry expression fell away into shock at this. They exchanged a glance, and Bella could all but hear the wheels turning in their heads as they tried to determine how she knew, but she had no intention of telling on Billy, though he had every right to inform whomever he chose. Well, if anyone had that right, it was Billy, but of course, he HAD been breaking the treaty.
"Thanks," Sam said finally, still looking her over with a calculating expression. Then he nodded to Jared. "Good to see you again, Bella," he said before turning away and disappearing into the woods. Paul followed him without a word.
"I'll - ah - walk you back, then," Jared said quietly, and Bella thanked him.
"So," Bella began after a few moments of uncomfortable quiet. "Protector, huh? How are things going with that?" she asked quietly. She was curious. Billy hadn’t told her which of the Quileute boys had made the change. She couldn’t help but wonder what it was like.
Jared looked at her sideways and then dodged the question in the only way he could think of. "Not bad. There's - a girl," he admitted, almost as reluctant to discuss this topic as the one he was avoiding. Bella sucked in a breath. Something about the way he'd said it made her think it was more than just a normal crush, and the stories were still fresh in her mind, thanks to Uncle Billy.
"You mean you imprinted?" she whispered in awe. Jared only nodded. "Well, why isn't she with you today?" she pressed.
"I haven't told her yet," he breathed, clearly relieved that she wasn't jealous. They'd sort of fooled around a little - a year or so ago - and he wasn't sure what that may or may not have meant to her. But he DID know she blushed every time she looked at him, and for a long time he had, too, it was just harder to see on his dark skin.
But Bella wasn't jealous. She'd let him kiss her because she was curious about kissing more than for any other reason. She asked about the girl and encouraged him to tell her how he felt so they could be together. She even refrained from poking fun at the dreamy expression on his face when he mentioned Kim's name. Which was difficult for her because Jared was NOT a 'dreamy expression' sort of boy.
"I'm seeing someone," she said, when they'd exhausted everything he felt like telling her about Kim. And then she had her turn to tell him about Mike in a less dreamy, more factual sort of way.
"Do you love him?" Jared asked just as they broke the tree line and started across the beach. She stopped walking.
"I don't know. It isn't the same thing as what you and Kim will have, but -" she broke off, smiling. She was certain Jared and Kim would be happy together. Her now-perfect belief in Uncle Billy's legends gave her that assurance. But what she felt for Mike wasn't some force of magical nature. She wasn't sure what it was. "I like him pretty well," she admitted, blushing again. "It might be love. If it isn't yet, it probably will be. He's a really great guy."
Jared had less compunction about poking fun, and teased her for the blushing until they were within hearing distance of the fire, where almost everyone was hovering around Lauren while Eric looked on worriedly from a safe distance away. Bella felt a little bad for him. He'd obviously cared for her some, judging from the expression on his face, but he'd thrown away her regard for just the hope of a chance with a girl he didn't really know - who wasn't even human.
Mike jumped up as she approached, with a pinched look taking the place of the usual easy smile on his face. Bella wondered just how bad it had looked for her and Jared to come out of the woods alone the way they had. "Is she alright?" she asked, glancing at Lauren.
"She twisted it pretty hard. I doubt she'll be able to walk on it. We were going to take her back, but I didn't want to leave without you." Mike looked at her reproachfully, and she was absolutely sure that he thought something had gone on between her and Jared, so she determined to fix it right away. She raised her chin and turned toward Jared.
"I hope things go well with Kim," she said quietly. He grinned in response, realizing what she was doing.
"Me, too." He pulled her into a hug. "You're like family around here, you know. Sisterly advice and all that."
Bella laughed against his shoulder, feeling the muscles that flexed beneath his skin. He'd been nothing like this the last time she'd been so close to him. "Only because Leah's idea of advice would be: 'Get on with it already!' " Bella quipped. But that sobered Jared up quickly.
"If you get a chance, I hope you really will stop by and see her." He released her. "She's hurting."
"I will," Bella promised. Jared smiled again and said goodbye, heading back toward the path where he'd left Sam and Paul. When she turned back towards Mike he was smiling sheepishly, but she didn't give him a chance to make an issue of it all. She reached out and took his hand. "We'd better get things loaded up, then. Did anyone get to eat? I'll need to feed Alex before I take him home."
"We'll stop somewhere," Mike offered quickly, his smile becoming more natural as he pulled her back toward the others, who were already getting ready to leave. Bella was pleased to see Tyler helping Lauren into his own vehicle. At least she'd be spared any further taunting for the afternoon.
The movie he'd promised her was a long time coming, but Mike did eventually whisper the invitation shyly into Bella's hair one day at lunch. She'd grinned over at him, squeezing his hand under the table until Jessica coughed pointedly from the other side of the table.
Mike noticed Cullen looking at them again as he raised his eyes and looked away from Bella. He wasn't sure what was going on with that. As far as he knew, Bella had never spoken to Edward Cullen, so it didn't make sense the way he stared at her.
He picked her up for the movie only an hour after school, since they were going all the way to Port Angeles, and after shaking Charlie Swan's hand, he had to wait alone in the kitchen with Alex. He didn't get the impression Alex liked him very much, but he was polite anyway. He knew that in spite of how often she complained about him, Bella really loved her younger brother.
"How are you liking eighth grade?" he asked, managing not to sound too awkward.
Alex just frowned at him for a minute. "My first period class is Whitmire," he offered sarcastically. "It's joy incarnate."
Mike snorted. He was used to Bella's sense of humor, and it seemed she and Alex had that in common. His amusement seemed to break the ice and they spent an entertaining five minutes abusing Mr. Whitmire while Mike waited for Bella.
When she appeared, he bid Alex a friendly goodbye, ignoring the worried expression Bella turned to her brother, as if she was afraid he'd said something embarrassing about her in her absence. He thought about reassuring her on that score, but decided that would probably just convince her that something HAD been said, when it had not.
Bella and Mike mostly talked about school. He'd been helping her with algebra homework, and she'd reciprocated with English - not his best subject, but she never made him feel dumb as she helped him, even when he was. They compared grades, and complained about teachers, and generally avoided any topics that might be difficult until they'd arrived at the movie theater.
The movie was a love story, and Bella spent the first half of it hoping Mike would put his arm around her, and the last half enjoying the fact that he had. She leaned against his shoulder and smiled up at the huge screen, hardly taking in the movie. She thought a lot about Jared's question to her and whether the warm, safe feeling she got from being with Mike was the same as love. She didn't manage to reach a conclusion by the end of the movie, but she was feeling very happy to be there with him. Mike was sweet and had always been kind to her. They waited in their seats while the credits rolled and the crowd thinned out.
"What'd you think?" Mike asked nervously, but Bella didn't move from where her head was resting on his shoulder.
"Honestly? I wasn't really paying attention to the movie," she whispered, blushing again. She had always hated how easily she blushed, but in the dark theater it didn't much matter. No one could see it anyway.
"Me neither," Mike said, grinning. He, however, had spent the time wondering about Bella and Jared, and why Edward Cullen was always staring at her. Not that she wasn't worth staring at. He knew as well as anyone that she WAS. He just didn't get why Cullen was doing it. He'd resolved to ask her about one or both of these things during the movie, but then she'd laid her head on his shoulder like that, and it had weakened his resolve. Hearing her admit to ignoring the movie, presumably because she'd been thinking about him, sort of chased away any desire he had to ask about anything, really.
Instead, when they stood up he just took her hand and let her lead him out into the lobby, blinking at the bright lights. “Do you want to get dinner?”
“I’d like that,” she said, smiling as he held the door so she could precede him out into the rain. She pulled up the hood on her jacket. “But I’m buying, since you paid for the movie.”
“No way!” Mike argued, reaching for her hand again.
“And why exactly not?” Bella demanded, trying to sound affronted, though she’d suspected he would insist in the same way that he’d expected her to offer. She thought he’d probably joke it off, but he didn’t.
Instead he stopped walking halfway to the car, and turned towards her. He was still smiling, of course, but his eyes were serious. “Because we aren’t just friends hanging out anymore,” Mike said quietly. “Because I want to do this for you.”
Bella found her heart suddenly hammering as she looked up at him, ignoring the rain in her face even as she noticed it weighing down the endearing spikes of Mike’s hair and clinging to his pale eyelashes until he blinked it away. She swallowed hard as he leaned toward her, and then closed her eyes just as he pressed his lips to hers.
Mike pulled away after only a moment and Bella realized she’d stretched up onto her toes to make it last at about the same time he did. Predictably, she blushed and tried to look away. But he only grinned at her and tugged on her hand a little to bring her closer, then folded his arms around her carefully. This time he kissed her properly. The rain and the noise from the road went away. The sound of other movie-goers splashing through the parking lot went away, and for several long moments neither of them heard anything but the blood rushing in their ears, and an expectant silence.
Bella couldn’t help but compare this to the exploratory kissing she and Jared had attempted, and it came out way ahead. There was definitely something to be said for kissing a boy you were actually interested in. She had to gasp in air when he straightened up again, but he was doing the same, so she didn’t feel too embarrassed. She’d put her arms around him at some point, though she didn’t recall doing it. She held onto him a little longer, resting her head on his shoulder, and feeling his arms tighten around her as he hugged her back. She grinned against his jacket as the rain suddenly pushed its way back into her consciousness. Then she took his hand, laughing, and pulled him towards his car.