Chapter twenty: The route into heaven
Characters: Jacob/Edward, Rosalie, Paul, Quil, Alice, Carlisle
Chapter length: -8,316 words
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight, not me. This is for fun, not profit
Summary: Edward doubts in many forms.
Table of contents
Chapter nineteen: The paradox
"Here you are, Mr. Cullen." The post office worker pushed a brown package towards me. I smiled at her and bent down to sign the receipt. That small parcel held my future because Jacob's engagement ring was inside. I wanted to spring the surprise on my wolf and thus picked it up out of a catalog. This way, Alice wouldn't find out and blurt it out to him.
"Thank you, ma'am."
Glancing around, I sighed at the changes time had wrought to the office in South Spartan Avenue. My fingers caressed the smooth carton before I put it inside my pocket while I glanced through the window at the back of the yellow newspaper machine.
Shaking my head, I tried to dismiss the notion of exotic places I couldn't visit which teemed with adventures I wasn't able to share.
As I stepped into my car, a beat-up truck honked at me and I glanced at Paul, who was waving energetically. He shook his head and obviously decided to talk to me; the old Ford lurched to a stop several yards away.
I walked towards the truck, curious to know if Jacob's order not to speak about certain things applied to him.
"Wassup, Cullen?" Paul beamed at me.
"You are in a hurry, I see."
"Well, I had free time and Leah wanted me to look up cribs and stuff." He shrugged, his mind whirling around his mate's well-being.
"Did Jacob tell you we tracked a Volturi in West Virginia?"
"What? No, he didn't. He's been kind of distant lately."
Reading Paul's innocuous thoughts, I sighed and looked away guiltily. Actually, there wasn't any Volturi in that state; it was John Davenport who worked there. While we were searching for the elusive Kieppel, I researched the whereabouts of the blond guy. He wasn't as dumb as I thought, working as a technician in a radio telescope in Green Bank.
"I see. It's not important, really." I wondered how I would get Paul to open up without seeming obvious about it.
"Guess I've been busy with Leah." Paul sighed, adjusting the rearview mirror. "I worry about her, and with the plans and all, Jake and I don't have time to…"
He trailed off when he noticed a blue Chevy coming towards us from the opposite side of the road. I recognized Quil's burly frame behind the wheel and the Quileute slowed down when he saw Paul's truck.
"Hey, man!" Paul waved but Quil just frowned at us and honked his horn in farewell before speeding up again.
"What the hell?" Paul scowled at the rear fender of the Chevy. "I know it's been rough on the guys with the shifting patrols and all, but he could've stopped and talked at least!" He looked down and picked up a can of soda. Sipping it slowly, he glanced up at me.
"Why d'you look so down, Cullen? Your eyes are dark, by the way."
I smiled weakly at Paul, keeping to myself Quil's reasons not to stop. It wasn't Paul that bothered him but me; Jacob's friend had noticed I was here and sped away, fearful of my mind-reading abilities. Put simply, Quil didn't want to face me.
My mood took a dive, resembling the usual overcast Forks sky.
"I have to go, Paul. I need to discuss things with Carlisle." I waved at him, suddenly envious of the sharp spikes of happiness coming from his mind, and made my way to the Volvo.
I drove around Forks for a while, evading the route that would take me to the Reservation. I trusted Jacob completely, but there was this patina to his mind which disturbed me. Was I reading too much into that stupid IM message? Was the blond guy just a recent friend?
Things didn't look up when I heard the silly romantic song I had put in my phone to warn me about incoming messages. I fished it out of my pocket and glanced at the screen. Jake had texted me. Sighing, I read his terse message: 'Can't go tonight, am floored by pack stuff. See you in the morning, Cullen. Miss you.'
I drove home, deciding to pay Jacob a visit. I wouldn't ask him out loud what was behind his actions and his mind remained elusive to my abilities. When he slept, however, I would be able to peer into his dreams.
"You've put the carton of milk on the porch?" Jacob stared intently at Quil, his long fingers playing with the frayed edges of the cushion.
"Every night before I go to bed, just like you asked me, man." Quil smiled warmly, his gaze straying down to the legs of the sofa where a small, pale hand peeked from the shadows.
"Good. Hope Embry has done the same." Jake stretched his long legs, unaware of the pudgy fingers that greedily reached towards him. I gasped when a small head, crowned with red locks, glimmered in the penumbra. I wanted to warn him but was unable to enter his dream.
Leaning on the window frame, I shivered with dread while I gazed at my wolf's angelic face, belying the horrific scenario that was playing out inside his mind. It felt odd to watch him and observe his dreamscape in these circumstances.
"Yep, Seth does it when Embry and I are on patrol. We understand the customs, Jake." Quil reached for the remote and pushed the button but instead of the screen coming to life, it was him who became transparent and vanished.
Jake stood up and bent down to turn off the TV, unmindful of the disappearance of his friend. At that moment, the hideous thing that had been reaching for him pounced. I realized with a start that the distorted features were those of a baby. It screeched at Jacob, "Come to me!"
He stumbled onto the chair, blanching from the hideous sight as he lifted up his hands. "Hey, I've done nothing to you and pacified… lemme go!"
I ran to his bed and held his wrist lightly, my thumb massaging the warm, smooth skin. My touch seemed to calm him down, for the dream shifted on a dime; the living room in the dream disappeared as fast as the morning dew. I lurched when I realized the significance of the baby's red hair. The grimacing face of the creature that wanted to devour Jake would match a child of mine and Bella's. What if my wolf still believed he was guilty of Bella's death? Was that the reason he chatted with the blond guy?
I didn't have time to dwell on this notion because Jake's dream acquired heft, the fog resolving into a sharply lit scene. Jake was nude, laying on a silvery surface. I gasped at the concave shape that extended for hundreds of yards, holding Jacob like the palm of a ghostly, immense hand. It was the Arecibo radio telescope whose walls shimmered in the distance, rising sharply and creating a shallow bowl in the deepest part of which Jacob rested, squirming upon the metal which was pliant as silk in the dream logic of my wolf.
It was eerie to witness Jacob's vivid imagery while the peeling paint of the doorframe scratched my palm as I reclined over his bed.
I didn't want to intrude in his dreams but I just couldn't help myself. I had refrained from peeking into his browser history because I trusted him; nevertheless, I tracked down this John Davenport my Jacob communicated with. I was a hypocrite and I hated it.
The Arecibo dream obviously had to do with the guy; after all, he worked in that field. Davenport wasn't the simple hunk I mistook him for, which made him even more dangerous.
I had to resort to sneaking into the Reservation to watch my wolf sleeping.
My attention returned to his dream when Jacob twitched. I lowered my hand, poised just above him. My fingers caressed briefly the sheet covering his flanks; I was careful not to stimulate him too much. I didn't want him to wake up because he lacked sleep. Jake had been working too hard leading the pack, helping to find out more about those poachers, and studying. I had grown to resent the time he spent cramming all those lessons and couldn't help but wonder if they were the reason he was chatting with the blond.
My nostrils flared in anger when I saw his dream. Jacob squirmed on the liquid metal with a shadowy figure on top of him. It was a man riding his cock. The guy's limbs writhed and his tanned skin glistened in the cloudy day as he bounced up and down on Jake's lap, impaling himself.
I plopped down on the floor. My palm cradled my face as I bit my fist, choking back a moan of despair. In that exact moment, Jake's dream shifted again. I closed my eyes and groaned as I sank into the dream. The clouds which had been hanging over the horizon in an eerie reminiscence of Forks began to clear rapidly. More importantly, the man riding Jake became paler, his hair growing and sticking every which way until I realized with a start it was me.
The dream suddenly sharpened as if this quality was suddenly siphoned off from somewhere. The clouds rushing through the horizon and the sun peeking over the scene lent it an ethereal quality. Glancing at my dream self I saw him glowing. The way Jake envisioned me took my breath away. There was tenderness and otherworldly beauty in my features which I knew I didn't possess, however much of a predator's lure I exuded. I was moved by the way Jacob gazed up at me, his hands caressing my body as if he couldn't get enough of me. The scene was hot and romantic; in this dream, Jacob and I were not simply fucking, we were making love.
Jake muttered phrases in Quileute. I heard 'kwo pat,' 'kwop kilawtley,' and other endearments he used with me, the sound of his raspy voice flowing over my mind like the sweetest nectar.
I sighed in contentment just before a thick sunbeam fell on my dream self. My body sparkled in the usual way for an instant, and then the strangest thing happened. The glimmering concentrated on a point above my collarbone and shot up into the sky, joining our bodies to the heavens. Gazing up, I saw night had fallen. The starscape over the Arecibo bowl was connected to the ground by the glowing thread of light. It seemed to vibrate with life and the secret energy contained within the realm of dreams. There were brighter patches on the narrow, silvery road which pulsed briefly. It was as if a ghostly, invisible giant animal was treading upon the light, making its way up to the sky.
The celestial gossamer thread hung for a moment above the two of us and then Jake wrapped his arms around my dream figure. I became translucent and vanished, shooting up into the sky.
Instead of mourning my passage, Jake smiled contentedly and mumbled, "Johnny had better be right."
Jacob's words jarred me so much I didn't stay to watch over him until dawn as I had planned. I jumped out of the window and walked away. I was touched and relieved and angry, all at the same time; frankly, I didn't know how to deal with this onslaught of emotions. I felt like going back and hugging him and also wanted to enter his shed and kick his car until it was a heap of twisted metal. This mix of anger, happiness and jealousy Jacob caused unnerved me. I swerved towards the forest, not wanting to damage his Rabbit because I knew how much Jake loved the car. Even if his behavior grieved me, I wouldn't hurt him for the world.
As I ran through the woods, I recalled the nightmare in which my baby attacked Jacob. It broke me, how he had been so afraid of it and wanted to pacify it with words. My legs faltered as I climbed upon a huge boulder, realizing that the baby was a stand-in for my marriage to Bella – and my past with Jacob.
Obviously Jacob was overwhelmed by it all, at least subconsciously. Our passionate history, which I was convinced lent strength to our relationship, acquired ominous overtones by the light of Jake's dream. Perhaps the emotional baggage was too much for my wolf and it was the reason he talked with this Davenport. 'Johnny' was new and fresh to Jacob, he didn't possess the stigma I had; Jacob had to fight the elders to remain with me and brave the censorious gaze of some pack members.
It was easy to interpret that his subconscious yearned for something simple and new.
I felt like crying at the thought that my wolf needed me to walk away from his life. Squaring my shoulders, I knew if it came to that I would gladly do it because I loved him. There wasn't anything I wouldn't do for him; I would even let him go because Jacob taught me freedom. If I had to cling to him to the point Jacob became so overwrought he dreamed about me shooting up into the sky, perhaps we were not meant to be.
I hit an old pine near our house; the crunching sound of the bark and splitting wood reverberated in the forest as the trunk lurched sideways. I needed to go home and vent this fog that clouded my thoughts.
Snorting at the illusory beauty of our house, I went down to the garage and stopped in front of my car. The silver Volvo represented everything I hated about me; it was the past which wouldn't let me go and reached its dead hands to grasp me. I kicked hard the chassis, enjoying the shrill, rattling sounds of metal curving inward under my leg, the spattering of crystal shards from the broken lamp gleaming as they rained down upon the floor. Before I could hit the damned car again, cold arms wrapped around my body, holding me like a vise while a comforting fog of concern enveloped my mind.
"Wait a moment, Edward! In heaven's name, what are you doing?" Rosalie's apprehension was my undoing and I understood exactly what Jacob had felt when she held him. Her warmth had broken through his defenses exactly the same way it broke through mine, as if they were made of melted butter. How I wished I could cry like him!
"It's Jacob!" I said, panting harshly. My worries poured out in a rush of words, my joy become despair at his strange imagery and the way I snooped into his dreams. My knees failed and I sat down on the white linoleum floor. Rosalie stood over me, listening intently while she hefted a wrench.
"So you think Jake is cheating on you?" she said. "Edward, I just don't believe it."
"Of course I don't think so!" I shook my head and smiled bitterly at the thought of my wolf cheating on me. "Jacob wouldn't ever do that. It's just that…"
"What? What made you try to destroy your car?"
"He wouldn't cheat on me, but he is overwhelmed by our past." I told her my conclusions about the baby attacking Jacob.
She shook her head, scrunching up her eyebrows. "You think that baby you saw…"
"Was my child. It represented the past and Jacob obviously is threatened by it. When he talks to this Davenport, he must feel free, you know? Maybe he would be happier with that man."
"I'm sorry, Edward, but you're completely wrong." She went to the bench and picked up a random screwdriver, glancing at her Porsche. "Talk to Jacob, pretty please? Ask him?"
I plunged ahead and told her about the sexual imagery in Jacob's dream until she lifted up her pale hand.
"Don't, Edward!" She glanced at the ceiling, worrying her lip. "Listen, any other time I would be glad to listen to your exploits, but not now. Seeing you like this, after you were so happy… it breaks my heart." She looked at me sharply and sighed. "Please, dear Edward, talk to Jacob."
I hunched my shoulders. "It might be that Jacob hides the truth even from himself."
Rosalie shook her head in exasperation. "Now what are you talking about?"
I tilted up my chin to look at her, noting the way her dark coveralls hugged her perfect figure. "Do you remember the arts teacher we had in Alaska during the Sixties?"
Rosalie frowned. "Can't say I do. Who exactly?"
"I don't remember her name. She had come back from a trip to Europe. She mentioned something about the protests in France and then she waxed enthusiastic about the paintings in Italian museums and…"
She lifted up her hand. "Yes, I remember. That was Esther Williams; she had an aquiline nose and a bun, only she wasn't our arts teacher. She taught history. So what did she say?"
"Pentimento. She told us all about it. It's when a painter changed his mind and worked anew over the same canvas." I reached down to grab a shard of red glass, scratching the floor with it. "People see the work, but over centuries the layer erodes and you can get a glimpse of the original design."
I gazed up into her golden eyes. "It is happening with Jacob. When I read his thoughts, it's like there's a layer underneath. I think he hides his real intent and this way, he can pretend to himself everything is all right."
She wiped her hands on a rag and gazed down at the mess on the floor, finally waving her hand at it. "Help me clean this up."
"I want to go to my room and…"
"Brood some more? Craft stranger ideas?" She shook her head energetically, her blond hair whirling around her cheeks. "No, you stay here to help me clean and talk to me. For instance, I know you went to Forks this morning. You haven't told me why."
"I just went to the post office to get the engagement ring I wanted."
"The what?" She looked at me with wide eyes. "Come on, spill it!"
I shrugged and decided to help her. Rosalie was right, because at that moment being alone wouldn't help. My gaze shied away from the gleaming Porsche she and Jake were working on as I recalled what happened that morning.
"I want to sweep Jake off his feet when I propose to him because he deserves it."
"Of course he does," Rosalie mumbled while she went to the shelf to get a broom. "And?"
"When I came out of the post office, I saw Paul. He was driving a beat-up truck. Guess it is his uncle's."
Rose lifted her eyebrow. "Did you get something out of him? I know how persuasive you can be." She swept the floor, pushing the broken glass towards the dustpan.
"Nothing." I shrugged tiredly. "Just vague thoughts. Paul's mind was preoccupied with Leah and the baby."
"As he should be."
I picked up the dustpan while Rose grabbed a black bag. I said wearily, "Quil came by. He didn't stop his Chevy but the gist of his thoughts told me he was hiding something."
Emptying the contents over the trash bag Rose held open, I sighed tiredly. "It's vexing, you know."
"I trust Jacob and his love for you. It shines on his face when he talks about you!" Rose nudged my elbow with the plastic bag. "So, did you get the ring?"
"It's on my dresser. It has a leather string for Jake to wear it around his neck." I shrugged when Rosalie lifted her eyebrows inquiringly. "He can't wear it on his finger because he phases."
"Anyway, I saw it on this online store. It's made of white gold, the design simple and elegant like Jake. Carlisle offered me an old heirloom but I didn't want it. My wolf deserves the best, to start his life with me with something brilliant."
I sighed brokenly at the recollection of the past hours which felt like a nightmare.
"Don't worry, things will clear up," Rose said. "I have faith in our wolf. He's tough and resourceful, though really, that boy should learn more math! Makes it hard to explain some concepts."
"I guess it does," I said a bit curtly because Rosalie's degree in astrophysics reminded me of the whole situation with Davenport.
We reminisced about the past and later, Rosalie bent down to open the hood of the Porsche. She pointed at the bench. "Could you get me the socket wrench which is next to the rag?"
"Sure." I walked to the bench, the shadows coming from the windows telling me we had spent hours talking.
Handing over the wrench, I gazed at the ceiling when Alice's thoughts crept up on me. I hastily wiped my hands on the oily rag and waved Rose goodbye.
"Edward!" She called out to me, waving her silvery wrench agitatedly. "Talk to Jacob, please?"
Squaring my shoulders, I walked out of the garage and slowly climbed up the stairs like a man condemned. I needed to find out something from Alice.
"Good to see you, we have this clue to Kieppel's whereabouts!" Alice said, and leaned her hand against the doorframe to her room. "I used decryption and followed the credit card trail. The man employed lots of aliases and false trails, but using my power I found the correct path which leads us to this estate in Eureka, California."
"That's good." I smiled sadly. I would willingly lay my life on the line to protect Jacob so he would find happiness, either with me or someone else.
She pirouetted in delight, her leather jacket gleaming. Alice's chirpiness was annoying me, though.
"Alice, can I ask you something?"
"What does my future tell you?" I waited on tenterhooks for her answer; if Alice could see the path I would take, it meant Jacob had already made the decision that would separate us forever.
"What exactly do you mean, Edward?" She said airily, waving her hand. "You know I cannot see into Jacob's future, therefore you remain hidden to me. Carlisle is certain the number of chromosomes the wolves possess make them a different species or something." She huffed, "You guys and your gene talk confuse me. I can only see the mortals and us."
I breathed a long, drawn-out sigh of relief at her words. It meant Jacob had chosen me, or would choose me in the future – whatever worked in the breach of causality implied by Alice's powers.
"Hey, wait a moment!" Alice smiled while she stalked towards me predatorily. "So you have doubts about Jacob? However much your wolf has changed, he remains invisible and, as long as you are with him, I cannot see your future."
She clicked the heel of her Prada shoe against the floor, squinting at me. "As a matter of fact, you haven't asked me the most important question."
"Which is?" My spirits lifted up by the fact she couldn't see me in her visions, I smiled briefly.
"If I can see Leah's child."
"So can you…?" Before Alice could answer, I heard the sound of my wolf's car and waved goodbye to her. She looked miffed but I didn't have time to chat. I needed to see Jacob so I rushed downstairs. I met Carlisle on the way down, though.
He brushed his hand against his hair. "Edward, I have just talked with my contact in Aro's court."
"Did they say anything new?"
His eyebrows puzzling in thought, Carlisle said slowly, "I was told that when Aro formed his coven, people in Etruria talked about a man who could mold new animals out of the old. In fact, my contact said his deeds earned him the nickname Proteus."
"Really?" I said, my fingers tapping impatiently against the banister. We had been researching for days, and it was precisely now that the results were rushing in. Why did life conspire to keep me away from Jacob?
Carlisle frowned, noting my impatience. He gave a light pat to the banister and gazed down the stairs. "The Volturi tried to get him to join them by murdering his coven but he vanished into the sea. Unfortunately it was so long ago no historical record remains. Aro's mind is so filled with memories, I doubt even he can remember that far back."
"Did your contact mention any particular features we could use to track him?"
"Edward, could you come down here?" Jake shouted.
Carlisle grinned up at me in understanding. "There are some hints but we will talk at leisure later, Edward. I realize you have things to do."
I smiled warmly at this caring man. Moments like this, cut sharply from everyday routine, made me glad Carlisle had chosen me to be part of his coven.
I rushed down the stairs and dashed into the living room, my breath hitching at the sight of Jake. His broad shoulders were clad in a black t-shirt, limned by the light coming from the monitor. He turned and his profile against the screen took my breath away. He pointed to the chair by his side and turned to the monitor, his thumb nudging the black headset he wore. I walked towards him, freezing in midstep when a pale face came into focus.
"Jake, the hookup is ready. Took you long enough," said John Davenport.
"Man, I had things to do and so did you." Jacob leaned forward, his hand poised over the keyboard. He turned to me and lifted his eyebrow, cocking his head at the chair.
I shuddered when I read his thoughts. They had that two-layered quality I had explained to Rosalie, only now it was almost tangible. Sitting down, heaviness settled upon my limbs while I glanced at the screen. I wondered if the moment had come when Jacob would do what they did to servicemen stationed overseas when they broke up with them through a letter. Would Jacob 'Dear Johnny' me in front of the video camera?
Unaware of my thoughts, Jacob grinned at the screen and patted my thigh. "This is Edward, John."
Winking at me, he sat up straight and then whispered, "John Davenport is someone special, Edward, you'll see."
I nodded dumbly while he faced the monitor and started chatting with Davenport.
The guy glanced at his watch. "What time is it over there, man?"
Jake held my wrist and leaned down to look at my watch. "Quarter to two."
"Grandma should be ready, then. Lemme tell her."
I shook my head in befuddlement. What did Davenport's family have to do with us? The blond guy said something to Jacob and the wolf pressed some keys. A new window came up and the screen suddenly changed. There was a living room in whose broad windows I saw a portion of a beach and the blue of the sea stretching in the horizon. There was a jarring movement and then an old woman was smiling at us. She seemed somewhat familiar, though I couldn't pinpoint why. She nudged her bifocals and I squinted at her grey-speckled hair.
"Ms. Hollis," said Jake, slouching on the chair as he turned to smile at me. "I'm… Jacob Black and this is Edward Cullen."
"Nice to meet you, gentlemen."
I nodded at her without much enthusiasm.
"My grandson has told me so much about you!" Ms. Hollis beamed at us, the laugh lines in her face becoming more pronounced. "Johnny told me about your project but he didn't say which school."
Jake squirmed on his chair and lifted his hand to rub the nape of his neck, his thoughts congealing around that double-edged layer. "Well, my high school has this project, you see? History teach told me to track down people for a genealogy project… they'll give me extra credit which I frankly need. Met John online and he said you used to live in Oregon and that's where our school is and…"
"Oh, dear!" said Ms. Hollis, smiling broadly. "You're from Oregon? I love Portland; it was where we stayed in the Fifties when Dad served in Korea."
Her words startled me so; I would have fallen off the chair if I had been mortal.
"So Ms. Hollis, could you tell me a bit about your life?" Jake fished out a notebook from the drawer and pretended to write on it.
"There's nothing much to tell, young man. You said your name was Jacob?"
"Yes, ma'am. Jacob Black." Jake grabbed my wrist; he lifted it and kissed the back of my hand proudly, looking at me with shining eyes. "And this is my boyfriend, Edward Cullen."
Gazing into Jake's warm eyes, the full truth hit me. I just sat there, dumbfounded, while the old woman smiled kindly at us.
"Young love is so wonderful!" she said.
If I closed my eyes and saw her through the lenses of memory, her features would become rounder and smoother, her hair black, just like the time I watched her from afar. The girl I met at the meadow of memory had indeed become a lovely woman. In a way, she had brought me Jacob so it was fitting that my wolf brought her back to me.
She glanced at Jake. "I remember Portland. My family passed through a rough patch while we were there. We didn't know if Dad would be all right."
"Did your father survive the Korean war?" said Jake.
"That he did, not without injuries though." Ms. Hollis gazed down and sighed. "Mom had to fly to Hawaii while I spent two months with my aunt in Seattle. This was during summer break, I believe. Aunt Helena worked at the Boeing plant. I visited that place once; it was so new and big to a child like me!"
Jake scrawled on his notebook. "And afterwards?"
"Well, after the war ended, Dad was stationed all over. My mom insisted on moving with him, so I spent my school years in bases around the world." Ms. Hollis shrugged. "It was hard to make friends when you could be wrenched from them at any moment, but I made a few and kept contact with them through the years."
Listening to the story of Ms. Hollis, I remembered the times I had wanted to take part in action, from my youth when I read in the East Coast papers about the Great War, to watching the newsreels in 1945 detailing the actions of the Army in the European theater while I sat at the back of the cinema ready to watch 'To have and have not.' The years passed and the venues in which I contemplated the actions of war changed, but through it all I despaired at being the eternal spectator, condemned not to act.
"That's admirable, Ms. Hollis," Jake said.
"Call me Martha, dear. To make a long story short, during the Sixties I married this man I met at Berkeley."
"And you were happy with him?" I blurted out in a hushed voice, needing to know if the girl I had met by happenstance had a good life.
"No, dear. I'm afraid it didn't work that way." She frowned and nudged her bifocals with her index finger. "The fact is that we had a lot of trouble. Ernest was a free spirit – he protested against the Vietnam War - but things just didn't work between us. I had a child with him but eventually we separated."
Martha grinned at Jake. "By the way, that child is John's mother."
"I see." Jacob crossed his arms on his lap.
"Anyway, I took University courses and met this wonderful man. I guess the time I visited the Boeing plant must have stuck with me somehow because Anthony Hollis is a physicist." Martha's face lit up as she said slowly, "He truly is the love of my life."
"He is with you right now?" Jacob said, his arm reaching towards me until he grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
"I'm afraid not, Jacob. He's at the hospital in Oahu. Anthony has heart trouble and needed some tests. Still teaches at the university, though. He was the one that advised Johnny to study astronomy, which seems fitting since…" Martha trailed off and turned to point at the beach outside. "We live on Hokulani beach, which is Hawaiian for 'Star of heaven.' We have reached our little haven of happiness."
My body felt light and my mind swam with wonder. I missed the rest of their conversation but my wolf's thoughts told me the important thing: the girl I had met in that meadow so long ago had lived a fruitful and enjoyable life.
This was the basis for Jacob's double-layered thoughts and the sole reason he chatted with Davenport and kept it from me, ordering Seth to keep the secret.
I gazed at my lover, carefully storing in my mind how the blue light of the monitor bathed the smooth skin of his cheeks. I loved Jake more than ever.
"Oh, dear," said Martha Hollins, glancing down at her watch. "I'm afraid I have to go. Jacob, do you have enough information for your project?"
Gazing at me with warm brown eyes which had a film of tears, Jake grinned boyishly. "I believe I do, Martha."
"On that note, I'll take my leave of you two. Young love is so precious!" Martha frowned while she lifted her fingers to her chin, peering intently at me. "Your young man, Edward, he reminds me of someone…"
"Who?" said Jake.
"When I was a little girl living in Portland, sometimes I went to this field outside the city. It was so beautiful! There was a pretty young boy I glimpsed once or twice, though he looked so lonely and lost to the world." Martha pointed at me. "I've forgotten his face, but I remember the hair. It was just like yours, dear."
She sighed wistfully. "The poor boy looked so sad."
"Do not worry, Ms. Hollis," Jake said in a hushed voice as he prepared to cut the connection. "I'm certain he found happiness."
"I hope so," said Ms. Hollis.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Martha," Jake said solemnly, bowing at her.
"Good bye," I whispered softly as her image flickered and was replaced by the desktop. Caught in the poignant moment, I could hardly gather my wits.
Jake gazed sharply at me, nudging my elbow. "Are you okay, Cullen?"
The sound of his voice brought me back to the present and I grinned before pouncing on him, nearly toppling us both from the chair while I rained kisses on his face. Cupping his chin, I rubbed my thumb against his lips where they touched the plastic stem of the headset. "Kwolie, you are truly amazing. How did you find her?"
"I remembered what you said about her aunt working at the Boeing plant." Jake sighed contentedly while he carded his fingers through my hair. "I knew I could use your computer to research, so I took the opportunity. Found an old invitation to a party, so that gave me the chance to find out the name of all secretaries that worked at that plant in 1954."
Jake looped his arms around my back and I cuddled against him. He gazed briefly at the monitor and then said, "Scratched out those who didn't fit. Got three possible leads and followed them. Found out Martha's grandson on the web and I chatted with John so he could introduce me to his grandma and she wouldn't think there was anything wrong."
"That was very smart," I said, leaning my forehead against his warm brow.
"Talk about smart." Jake's lips curled up in a tight grin. "Had to soak up info from Rosalie about astrophysics, paradoxes and stuff. Don't tell her because she might get mad at me!"
"I'm sure she won't." I swung my leg so I sat astride my wolf's lap, enjoying the way he wiggled under me. "But tell me, why did you tell Seth to shut up?"
"Didn't know if Martha's story was a happy one." Jake's eyes shied away from my gaze. "Needed to find out more. I wanted you to know there are happy endings, that not all is pain and sadness."
"I love you," I said softly.
"So do I."
Jake's lips curled down in a slight grimace. "Seth was going to spill the beans when I wasn't ready. But when John told me more about his grandma, I decided to let you know."
"Would you have told me if…?"
"If she had a tragic life?" Jake's broad chest heaved under me. "Sure I would have. It would've been when I thought you could deal with it."
He patted my back, cocking his head to the side. I got the message and stood up.
"Kwo pat, your eyes tell me something," said Jake.
"That I'm very happy and I love you?"
"Nope, that you haven't fed." Jake smiled wolfishly. "Time to feed. Wanna hunt with me?"
Jake stood up and brushed his thighs before he sauntered to the door.
Remembering the ring, I called out to him, "Wait a moment."
I ran upstairs to my room and grabbed the box, rushing out of the house through the front door. Jake had already shifted and waited for me at the edge of the woods.
The sight of the majestic wolf filled me with awe. His russet fur contrasted sharply against the dappled green light filtering through the canopies of the trees and I couldn't wait to run my fingers through his silky fur. The swishing sound of his tail as he looked at me and the soft thudding sound of his paws against the loam were but simple notes in the eternal sonata that was my Jacob.
I smiled at him, delighting in the sensation of his soft fur under my fingers as I stroked his russet withers. I was filled with pride at the wildness and fire that resided inside Jacob while he looked at me with those huge eyes in which my reflection lingered.
'Hop in.' Jake waved his head, his muzzle pointing towards his back.
"What?" I said.
'You've carried me in your arms a lot. High time I returned the favor.' The wolf grinned at me, his red tongue lolling. 'And it looks like you need it, Cullen.'
Jake lowered his torso and I gingerly sat astride his back, leaning down to wrap my arms around his shoulders. Huffing, the wolf heaved up his body with a mighty lurch and made his leisure way into the forest. The feeling was extraordinary because he moved through the woods with such stealth and grace it felt like sailing on the roiling sea, my body swinging slightly as he swayed his shoulders and hips, fitting into the primeval rhythm of the forest.
I gazed at the ground and noted the natural way he walked, his hind paws stepping precisely over the footprints left behind by his forepaws. Jake's warmth under me contrasted nicely against the chilly November weather, just like his loving gesture had filled me with warmth.
"I love you," I mumbled softly.
Strolling through the woods like this, everything took on an enchanting aspect which was full of mystery. Perhaps it was simply Jacob who buoyed me up so much with his thoughtfulness. Gazing up at the cloudy sky, I knew I would easily find the route into heaven if my wolf took me there.
I loved him so much it burned me inside. I may have voiced this unknowingly because Jake huffed, 'Fifth time you say that.'
"Do you want me to stop?" I said, brushing my fingers against his ear.
He flicked his tail, and I felt a ghostly caress on my thigh. 'Nope, keep going.'
After he leapt over a boulder, Jake huffed and stopped for a moment, tilting his neck to look up at me. 'Edward, I wanted you to see that there's hope because you've suffered a lot.'
"It doesn't matter as long as I have you, kwolie. You make up for it."
'Likewise for me, kwo pat. Edward, do you see that your choice was the best one? Martha is happy. She's had problems of course, but she made it through.'
The wolf stopped suddenly, his ears pricking up while his fur stood on end. 'There's a deer, an eight-pointer, in front of us. Hop down and grab your meal. Do you remember when Emmett didn't want to hunt them?'
"Yes, I do."
'Now the big guy says they taste better than mountain lion. Glad Emmett saw the way that balance must be kept.'
I climbed down, patting his flanks one more time before I gave myself to the chase, running down the slope and kicking glancingly the bark of the trees for the heck of it. I listened with one ear to the heartbeat of the deer and with the other to my wolf, trailing way behind me so he wouldn't be detected.
This was unfettered freedom and I could easily picture eternity slipping by, unheeded by the two of us.
I was hardly aware of catching up to the animal and sinking my fangs into its neck, drinking deeply of the rich blood which didn't taste as sweet as the memory of Jacob smiling up at me, or his russet skin glowing by the light of the monitor while he surprised me.
I was engrossed in the taste of the blood rushing through my system and didn't notice Jake had shifted until his finger wiped my mouth. He lifted his hand to his mouth, his tongue lapping daintily at the blood on his thumb as he gazed at me.
The moment just felt completely right, so I grabbed his hand and tugged him towards the field beyond the copse of oaks.
It wasn't the meadow I visited with her, which made me very glad because my life with Jacob deserved something different. The untamed field was strewn with haphazard wild growth and tall grass that reached to our ankles, reflecting the indomitable nature of my wolf, Jacob.
I gently pushed him down and he sat on his haunches, his fingers brushing against the blades of grass while I gazed down at him.
Before I proposed to him, I wanted him to know everything so I bared my thoughts. I told him about my confusion and the way his dream had baffled me.
Jacob's reaction was intriguing. Instead of being angry like I expected, he shrugged in understanding. "I'm sorry. Should've told you but I wanted to surprise you, man."
"I shouldn't have gone to the Reservation to watch you…"
"I get it, Edward. I might have reacted a bit different."
"Calmer, I know," I said, looking down at the grass.
"Nope, I might have shifted and attacked the guy I thought was fucking you."
"Gotta say I'm glad you didn't check my browsing history, though." Jake blushed hotly.
"Why?" There was a decidedly erotic edge to his thoughts that intrigued me.
"Well, when I was researching all the astrophysics and stuff…?"
He mumbled through clenched teeth, "I watched some gay porn."
Jake's cheeks blushed so fiercely, I had to chuckle.
"It isn't funny!" He growled, fisting a tuft of grass. "I'm new at this."
Then it hit me that his 'research' was the reason for the sensual imagery of his dream. Those recent memories quickly sobered me up, though, and I became nervous.
"What's with you, Cullen?" He said, squinting at me. "Looks like you won a prize."
"You may be right, Jacob." I fumbled to unbutton the pocket of my shirt like an inexperienced teenager. Jake made me feel young and fresh, filled with awe in the face of a world which changed its meaning daily because of him.
Finally, I took out the small box and handed it to him while Jake pretended not to notice my trembling hands.
He carefully tore off the wrappings and opened the lid, staring at the gleaming white-gold ring which was tied to a slim piece of leather, so Jacob could wear it even in his wolf form.
Jake gulped. "You're making me nervous, kwo pat."
I knelt by his side on the tall grass and hefted the ring. A stray sunbeam fell on it and it seemed to shimmer, just like I had done in Jacob's dream.
"I love you, Jake," I said in a hoarse voice I hardly recognized. "So much I can't even express it like you deserve; so, will you marry me?"
Jake blushed and stood up, taking the ring. "Are you sure? It's not only because of Martha, is it? 'Cause I'm sure we'll have disagreements and fights and…"
I laid my fingers on his warm lips to shut him up while I grinned at him. "We'll fight and find our way to each other as long as we both live. Just like the woods under the sun, we are meant to be, simply because you are you and I love you so much it hurts. So will you…?"
"Course I will!" He yanked the ring from my hands and only my fast reflexes allowed me to anticipate his move and slip the ring on his finger.
He splayed his hand and gazed at the jewel adorning his finger. "I love it."
It was spontaneous and simple, on the spur of the moment. If fit Jacob perfectly and when his face lit up as he bared his teeth in a winsome grin directed at me, I knew I had reached heaven.
We walked slowly through the woods on our way back to the house. Jake had phased again and the rumbling of the ground as he walked beside me soothed me. I smiled at him, bereft of worry, but then my phone rang.
I fished it out of my pocket and glanced at the screen. It was Carlisle so I took his call with bated breath.
"Edward, it seems we have been contacted."
"He didn't say his name, only that he had information concerning the Volturi and their plans towards the Quileute pack. I can't tell you more over the phone, though I will say it's very disquieting."
"We'll be right over."
"Tell Jacob we have contacted his pack."
"Don't worry, my fiancé knows."
Jake shot forward, trotting easily through the woods. The ring tied around his neck bounced up and down, glimmering when it occasionally intersected a sunbeam.
Jacob turned to glance at me. 'There's another reason I contacted Martha. I wanted you to experience how happy she is because she's part of what we fight for.'
He walked towards me with an easy gait. 'Lemme explain. After I phased for the first time I was desperate. Felt like I couldn't control myself.'
I nodded while I lifted my hand but I didn't reach towards him. Something in his stance told me there was more he wanted to say.
Jake shook his muzzle from side to side. 'So I imagined members of the tribe. They were the people I had to protect and I had to control myself to do it.'
"That was wise." I walked towards the nearby clearing and climbed over a huge boulder. He just jumped over it, his fur fluttering in the strong breeze.
Landing with a mighty crash, he shook his body. 'You remember when the newborns attacked and Bella rejected me all over again?'
I nodded somberly.
'Had to convince myself I was a warrior for all of Forks - that I had to defend the town against the crazed bloodsuckers - so I pictured random people in the streets. They were my tribe, my herd beyond the Quileute. Do you see?'
"I do, Jacob."
'Martha belongs to the world that goes on beyond the woods. She is part of the people that we must guard as stewards of the land.'
I said nothing as I stared at the woods in front of us. There was an echo in Jacob's words that felt familiar, a pull I could not withstand.
'Our survival demands we protect the balance that must always exist.' He barked sharply at the woods and turned to gaze at me with a feral look in his eyes. 'Can you grasp that, kwo pat?'
"I know, Jake." I squared my shoulders.
The wolf's thoughts promised adventure and action, releasing me from indecision. The quests I imagined as a teenager when I read about the bloody fields of Flanders during the Great War, the remorse I felt watching on the cinema the reels that told of heroes in far away Iwo Jima - everything became sharp in that single moment. My wolf's gaze vanished the despair I had felt when I heard Martha's casual words about those wars I could only experience as a distant observer. Kwolie's bark promised battle in defense of our people and the land he embodied so well.
And I was free at last.
Looking deeply into Jake's eyes, I shivered because he spoke with the authority and otherworldliness of Q'wati himself. I felt small and helpless, like Jake in the vision he told me about.
The wolf rubbed his muzzle against my face, his fur caressing softly my skin. Kwolie stepped back and I gazed into his unfathomable dark eyes. 'Together, we will defend the people, for I am the Alpha of the Quileute pack and you are the Cullen, he who protects and culls the herd.'