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Football, Feathers, and the Porch Rails

Thwap! Thwap! Thwap! Thwap!

The football mad a hollow, rubbery noise as it pounded over and over into
Jake’s hands has he tossed it side to side, stalling. We were standing maybe
a half-mile away from each other in the middle of a field. I was waiting.

Thwap! Thwap!

“Are you planning on throwing it anytime soon? Because I have an


accelerated growth rate, so I literally could be a year older by the time you
man up and throw the ball.” I planted my hands on my hips. Even though we
were so far away, I kept my tone normal. He still heard me. Just as I heard
him when he scoffed and replied:

“Well, see, Ness, that’s the thing about being a werewolf, I don’t have to worry
about the inconveniences of silly things like aging.”

“Not even a real werewolf.” I mumbled to myself, finally hearing him chuck the
ball towards me. I jumped up and caught the ball, literally hitting the ground
running. That was the rule if you wanted to play with Jake. You had to work
fast, because he wasn’t a quitter, and after you turned two, he didn’t let you
win. You had to work for it. So I did.

I turned and ran full speed towards the tree line, already hearing him
whooshing over the grass behind me. My adrenaline spiked as I sensed the
chase, but I spurred myself even faster, just getting to the goal line when…

“Aaaargh! Jake, are you kidding me?! I totally had this one!” He had hit me
fast from behind in midair. I felt his arm sling across my waist, pulling me into
his body as he landed hard on his other arm, making sure I felt none of the
impact.

“Obviously, you didn’t.” He smirked down at me. I groaned and threw my head
back, pounding it into the grass and leaving a small indention in the earth. I
drew my right had up, smacking him on the arm, but lingering, transferring
images of me running off the field defeated and sobbing, never to speaking to
him again. He laughed in my face before rolling off of me.

“Lies! You wouldn’t do that to your best friend. Or your mom’s best friend. Or
your step-grandmother’s surrogate werewolf son. Or the alpha of….” He went
on listing the multiple connections he had with me, but I barely heard. I was
too busy clenching and unclenching my hand, feeling a little tingly and
somehow sad where his skin used to be, but wasn’t now. Missing his weight
on top of me.

Which, I suppose, is to be expected. Earlier, when I’d been baiting Jake, I’d
been kidding. I had stopped aging about a year ago, and with my final real
birthday had come the flood of information. About Jake and his place in my
life. Or, my place in his, I guess?

It’s hard to decipher. But I’m his imprint. I know, gives you goose-bumps,
doesn’t it? I mean, it does to me. Which brings us back to the heart of the
matter. When they’d told me he was my soul mate, I’d almost been upset.

I mean, this is Jacob Black, we’re talking about! He’d held me when I was
born! He’d changed my diapers, for God’s sake! And now they were telling me
he was the love of my life? But, in true Jake form, he’d known exactly what I
needed.

“Listen, Imprint…It’s a harsh word. Not all imprints have to be romantic. It


could just be that we’re going to be best friends, and that’s all. But that’s
completely okay, Nessie, as long as you’re happy. Just, don’t worry about it.
We don’t have to change anything about how we hang out or the way we are.
We have a good thing going, here.” I had smiled and cupped his cheek,
replaying all my favorite images of us together. They weren’t romantic.

They were things like us catching dinner. Or him teaching me how to build
motorcycles from the ground up. Or me making him his favorite cookies,
hitting his hands with the wooden spoon when he tried to steal dough from the
bowl. Us playing football, or having races, or watching the Super Bowl and the
World Series.

But that had been then. This was now. I don’t know when it started to happen,
but one day, he’d given me a hug, and I hadn’t wanted him to let go. Ever.
Ever since, he’s all I could think about. I woke up thinking about Jake, spent
the day with Jake, went to sleep thinking about Jake, dreamt about Jake. But
somehow it wasn’t enough anymore.

But here’s the thing. Seeing as I was, quite literally, raised by a pack of
wolves, the normal Renesmee would just march up to him and say, “Hey. I
think I’m in love with you.” And be done with it. No muss, no fuss. But the
thing was, Jake had been right. We had a really good thing going. A great
thing, really. And he, himself, had never referred to feeling anything romantic
towards me.

All he’d said was, “Not all imprints have to be romantic.” Did that mean that he
wasn’t interested in me like that? Or that he was, but was hiding his feelings?
My mind whirred until I finally registered what was in front of me. Jake was
sitting up, waving his hands in front of my face and saying my name.

“Earth to Nessie? Ness?” he snapped his fingers in front of my nose before I


batted them away, rolling to sit up, myself.

“Sorry. I totally zoned out.” I laughed at myself, watching relief wash over his
face.
“Good. I was worried I’d taken you down too hard, for a minute, there.” I
searched his face, looking for something, anything, to tell me how he felt
about me. But all I saw was his joking smile and the thin veil of the slightly
manic over-protective attitude he had towards me.

“Not likely, furball. I’m made to last against your kind.” I hopped up onto my
feet and groaned when I looked at where I’d been sitting. “Jake! I was only
like, three inches away from the goal line! If I sneezed I could probably roll the
ball in!” He stood up and pretended to polish his fingernails on his tee-shirt.

“What can I say? You’re getting better, but there’s just no way you can beat
The Machine.”

“You’re The Machine?!” I scoffed, waiting, waiting, waiting, until finally… Yes!
There it was, a break in his focus. He tilted his head slightly to scan the forest
behind me, and I seized my moment. I bent to scoop the ball off the ground,
twirled out of his reach, and hopped the three inches over the rope we’d set
up as the goal line.

I threw the ball down and my hands up, champion style, turning around to see
him trying to frown, but laughing instead.

“GOAL!” I yelled in his face, knowing it bothered him a little to let someone
else win, even if it was just me. I did a little dance in a circle around him,
trailing my fingertips along his arms, sending him the feeling of my satisfying
victory.

“Satisfying victory? Ness, you totally cheated.” I did a little shuffle-step in front
of him, still celebrating.

“It still counts.” I sing-songed to him, twirling around. Making a big mistake.
Because as soon as my back was turned, Jake had swooped me up in his
arms and “tackled” me again. He held my hands down over my head with one
hand and went for my tickle-spot with the other.

“It still counts. I’m so awesome cause I totally cheated and I’m Renesmee and
I can’t beat The Machine in a fair game.” His voice was high pitched as he
tried to mimick me, wiggling his fingers against my rib cage. I twisted against
him, trying my hardest to get my hands free, or my legs, or something. I finally
got my legs around his waist, but I couldn’t budge him. I’m only a half-
vampire, and he’s a full shapeshifter. He trumps every time.

“Ugh! Ha…Okay…fine! I…cheated…and you…win.” I admitted between


gasps of laughter. His fingers stopped instantly. He wore the most beautiful
smirk on his face, so proud of himself.

“At least you admitted it.” He said, looking down at me. He seemed so happy.
It hadn’t even registered in his head that he was pinning me down, with my
legs wrapped around his waist, in the middle of an abandoned field. It had
definitely registered with me. With me and the warm, buzzing sensation that
had decided to move into my stomach whenever Jake was around. Did that
mean he really didn’t want me? That he could sit here so nonchalantly with
me wrapped around him? I curled my fingers around his where they rested
about my head.

What are you thinking? His smile faltered a little, probably taken off guard by
my serious tone. He shook his head and looked down at me.

“That I’m really lucky I get to hang out with you.” I almost rolled my eyes. It
was so Jake. Just the simple, unvarnished truth from my best friend. And he
really meant it. I could tell.

“Why? What are you thinking?” he asked, smiling down at me, still playing. I
smiled back, but even I could tell it was half-hearted.

“Let me up.” He was off me immediately, but frowning. He reached down to


pull me to my feet.

“Are you okay?” I tucked a stray hair behind my ear as a reached for the
football, avoiding his eyes for a little bit longer.

“Sure, sure.” I said, having adopted his phrase at the age of three days old. “I
think Esme’s making brownies, though. Want some?” He nodded, but his
eyes still told me he knew something was up. I stepped a bit closer to him,
reaching up to sweep my thumb across his jaw, sending him the feeling of
being alright and the thought of brownies. Predictably, his stomach grumbled
immediately.

I laughed. “I’ll race you back to the house.” I said, already beginning to jog
backwards. He grinned at me and followed. I let him be neck and neck with
me for a while, but I always win our cross-country stuff if he’s in human form. I
got ahead by a few inches, which is a lot for us, and jumped up, landing on
the porch with a thud seconds before him. I heard applause from inside and
pretended to take a bow just as Jake picked me up and twirled me around,
celebrating with me. He’s always on my side, even in competition. As long as
I’m fair.

I followed him inside, watching him scarf down an entire tray of brownies
before coming up for air. I ate mine slower, not enjoying the taste as much as
he did, but also just looking at him. After his tenth brownie, he looked up at
me to ask me something, and I noticed he had a melted chocolate chip
smeared all over his top lip. I snorted into my milk and he frowned.

“What?” He asked, completely innocent and bewildered. I shook my head as I


leaned forward to wipe his lip with my thumb, sending him a picture of how he
looked with chocolate all over it. He was grinning at me as he watched me lick
the chocolate off my thumb, but his face went suddenly serious and pale
when he focused on something over my shoulder. I looked back to see my
father standing behind me.
For an instant, I thought I saw something pass between them, but then it was
gone and I knew I’d just imagined it.

Later that night, I crawled into my bed, wondering what I was going to do
about Jake. Should I just tell him? I knew I couldn’t go on like I was. It was like
torture not knowing where he stood, but knowing that somehow I’d fallen so
deeply in love with him that I wanted to cry. I knew my father had caught on.

He’d been given me pitying/encouraging looks since I’d first realized how my
feelings had changed. He hadn’t come out and said it, but I knew he’d
approve of the match Jake and I made. But that brought me back around to
wondering whether or not Jake felt the same way. I wanted to call Alice. I
could cheat the system a little and see what he would say if I just out and out
told him I loved him. Just one little phone call to Peru and I’d be in business.

I sighed and rolled over, trying to punch my pillow into shape. No. Alice wasn’t
a toy I could play with. And she was on her fourteenth honeymoon. Besides,
I’d been taught at a very early age not to take advantage of my assets. I was
already immortal. Tipping the balance even more is just unfair to other people.
I punched my pillow harder, a little too hard. I heard a tearing sound and a few
feathers flew out the side. I growled and threw the pillow across the room,
scattering feathers everywhere and watching them drift down like snow onto
my carpet.

I heard a howl outside. I turned my head sharply to look out my window.


Some nights, when Jake was restless, he ran patrol around our house. The
phone rang downstairs and I barley focused on my father answering it in
hushed tones, talking low and fast to someone on the other end. I didn’t pay
attention to the words he was saying. I was slipping out of bed and going to
the window, unlatching it and climbing out onto the balcony.

There had been something in Jake’s howl. He sounded so…distant or sad. I


was drawn to it. I leaned over the railing, my eyes scanning the tree line for
his large form. There he was. I watched as he shifted, seeing a flash of skin in
the shadowy trees. I shivered, aware of the fact that it was in no way cold
outside. I was perfectly warm in a tank top and a pair of Jake’s old boxers. I
cocked my head to the side, allowing my mind to wander a little, thinking
about Jake’s body.

He was so sculpted and beautiful. Any girl would be lucky, so lucky, to have
him. I had to squash down a ping of jealousy towards this stupid, fictional,
unknown cow that got to be with him when I didn’t. I watched the moonlight
play across his abs as he jogged out of the woods, headed towards my
house. I held my breath, but I didn’t need to. Of course he saw me, and of
course he was waving to me, of course he was heading straight for me and
then swinging himself up to the balcony. And of course I began to hold my
breath for a different reason. Like: I had forgotten how to breath. He’s that
perfect.
Then he was leaning on the railing with me, looking out over the field he’d just
crossed before his eyes travelled back to me.

“Hey, Ness. Can’t sleep?” I narrowed my eyes. If I was going to do this I might
as well do this, right? I took a deep breath.

“If I stay your imprint…platonically…” I peeked up through my lashes to see


how he’d taken the subject change. His brows shot up, but other than that, he
froze. Like a statue. Like my father when he’s angry. I continued.

“…does that mean that you’ll…get with some other girl…romantically?”

“No.” He said it immediately. No hesitation, so convinced, that I was taken


aback.

“No?” He shook his head, looking at me with narrowed eyes. I paused,


clicking my fingernails against the rails and leaving tiny marks in the wood.

“Why not?” I asked, trying to leave emotion out of my voice. He inhaled slowly
before blowing it out. I peeked up at him again. He was facing me completely
now.

“It’s…It’s complicated, Nessie. It’s a pack thing that’s really hard to explain….”

“Will you try?” He blinked down at me, unsure for some reason. I reached up
to wrap my hand around his wrist, looking straight into his eyes. “For me?” I
asked out loud, while my fingers sent a please buzzing up his arm. He
shivered a little at the semi-desperate tone I had in my head. But this
conversation was a lot desperate for me, so he got off pretty easy. He sighed.

“Once, Quil told me…He described it as not seeing the other girl’s faces.
That’s as close as I can come to a description.” I frowned, sending disbelief
through his wrist.

“You walk around seeing faceless people?” I asked. He shook his head,
taking a tiny step closer.

“No. It’s like, I see them, but all I really want to see is you. Because I know
that any other girl in the entire world, even on their best day, could not
compare to you.” I swallowed and had to snatch my hand away from his arm
before I let some stray emotion leak out. I faced back towards the railing. I
waited a moment, fully aware of his staring down at me.

“Well, if I was to…be with you…romantically…?” I heard his soft, sharp intake
of breath and how his heart sped up just a touch. My mind spun. Did that
mean he does want me like that? Or was he, like, horrified at just thinking
about it?

“Nessie, what’s this about?” he asked, almost using his Alpha voice. Almost. I
sighed, still not meeting his eyes and gauging five holes in the railing with my
fingers. I picked at the splinters coming off and sprinkled them onto the
ground below, trying to look nonchalant.

“I just…want to know my options, here. You know? How it works and stuff.”
And stuff. Liar! I berated myself. I peeled away more wood from under my
hands. Beside me, still staring at me (probably like I was a lunatic), Jake took
a deep breath.

“Well, what do you want to know, Ness? I’m an open book.” I had to force
myself not to look up. He sounded so strained all of the sudden. I tried to
focus on the trees in the distance, making them out individually in the forest.

“Um, well, if we were to be together…like that…how would it work?” I sounded


lame and reaching even to my own ears. I felt the railing shake beneath me
and I glanced over to see that Jacob had gauged his own holes in the wood.

“Well that’s irrelevant seeing as you don’t feel that way about me.” He
sounded so…resigned. Or questioning. Or insecure. Or angry? I sighed, in
way too deep over my head, here. Like the first time Jake had ever taken me
cliff diving.

“You’ll get scared at first, cause you’ll go deeper than you think. Deeper than
you’ve ever been. But, Ness, you have to promise me you’ll keep swimming
back up to the top. Otherwise you’re stuck underwater until I come save you.”
He’d said. Thinking back, it wouldn’t have been too horrible a thing for me to
have stayed underwater for a while. I can hold my breath for an obscenely
long amount of time. But it’s a sentiment that I’ve kind of applied to all the
other parts of my life. I had to keep swimming, even if it didn’t look like I was
going to make it.

“Can’t you just save me this time, too?” I grumbled under my breath, still
staring at the trees.

“What?! What the hell does that mean?” I heard a crack beside me as he
broke the banister even more.

“It means…” I shook my head hard. “It means…maybe.” A loud snap told me
that he’d completely cracked the railing in two. But it was with the gentlest of
hands he reached out to grip my shoulders and turn me towards him.

“You mean maybe it is relevant? Like maybe you do feel that way about me?”
I was staring down at my bare feel, feeling the tingle of his hands on my bare
shoulders. I couldn’t really think of an answer that didn’t go one way or
another. Either way could ruin everything or be complete bliss.

“Renesmee Carlie.” He brought one hand up to cup my chin, forcing my head


up so that I had to look at him. “If you’re telling me that there’s any chance, I
mean any chance in hell that you might have feelings for me, I’m going to
need to hear it. Right now.” There was a desperation in his face that I couldn’t
read. Did he want this or not?
Part of me, a very large part, wanted to just say no and shrug it off and keep
on living life like we had for nine years. But the other part of me, the part that
was just loving his hands on my skin, the part that remembered what it was
like to have him on top of me today, the part that died a little every time he
treated me like a “buddy” told me I had to keep swimming.

I swallowed, hard, focusing on his elevated heartbeat. I brought my hands up


to grip his forearms, rubbing my fingers over the banded muscle and sending
the teeniest, tiniest current of emotion to him. It was just a low buzz of
warmth. I was feeling him out, seeing how he was going to take it. Later, if I
had to, I could tell him it was just friendly, “buddy” feelings.

Please, God, don’t make me have to.

His grip tightened on my shoulders. Otherwise, he was completely still. Back


in statue mode. The tension between us swelled until he finally inhaled
sharply, shaking me the smallest bit.

“What does that mean, Nessie? I need words.” I shook my head slowly.

No words. I sent to him. The muscles in his neck bunched up. He was trying
not to grip me too hard. He growled low in his throat. Not only did the rumble
serve to further heighten the tension, but it was just sexy as hell. More goose
bumps on my arms.

“Come on. I need something more, here.” His thumbs flicked out and stroked
my cheeks, too fast, almost panicked. He got so quiet, that my super-hearing
almost didn’t even pick up on what he said next.

“It has to be you. You have to be the one to do this. Come on.” He whispered,
his eyes practically pleading for me to make my move. But my heart had
already made my decision. I could have been reading him all wrong, but I felt
like he wanted me to tell him I loved him.

Slowly, I pried my fingers off of his arms. For the briefest moment, his face
looked completely crestfallen. Then I kissed him.

My hands slid up his chest to cup his neck, bending him closer to me so that I
could tilt my head a little this way, and he could slide his nose a bit that way…
and then our lips touched.

It felt like coming home and finding your soul-mate and fitting into the world’s
best jigsaw puzzle made just for you. There wore fireworks and my head
began to buzz and I felt the kiss all the way to my toes. His lips were soft on
mine, almost too soft. His hands dropped down to my waist, but I barely felt
his fingers resting there. I pulled back. Not much, but enough that our lips
weren’t touching anymore. I blinked my eyes open.

His were closed and he seemed completely frozen. Without thinking, I sent all
my panic towards him. I had gotten it wrong. He really didn’t want me, and
there was no coming back from this, and we’d have to stop being best friends,
and I’d never see him, and my mom would be so upset at having lost him,
because there’s no way he’d ever stick around after this. God, I’d have to
move to Peru with-

“No! Nononononononono. No. NO!” I sent more uncertainty to him. “You didn’t
get it wrong, Nessie.” He whispered and my heart jumped up into my throat.
My hands tightened on the nape of his neck.

But - I sent. He cut me off.

“But nothing. I never imagined in a million years, and-“ he huffed out a laugh,
“you need to believe me when I say I’ve imagined this a lot, I just never
imagined it would be so good.” He ran his nose along side mine, bringing our
lips so close, almost close enough to touch. “I just have to be careful with you.
You’re…” but apparently he couldn’t think what I was, because he was staring
into my eyes, and then his head tilted forward just enough for our lips to touch
again.

And there were still the fireworks and all that from the first time, but I was still
unsure of how to proceed. His words were telling me he wanted me but his
body…

I stepped closer, almost feeling his body on mine, pressed my lips against his
a little harder. He didn’t budge. My fingers sent waves of frustration at him.
Kiss me. Really kiss me. Please please please. He broke away, his hand
reaching up to brush along my jaw to the curve of my ear.

“You’re so fragile.” He whispered. I frowned, sending him my memories of this


after noon, when he’d tackled and tickled me.

I didn’t break then. I insisted. But I lost control of what I was feeding him,
because that memory was tinged with the pleasure I’d gotten out of feeling his
weight on me, and his skin on mine, which had led me to wonder what would
happen if I could feel more of him on me. I snatched my hands away from
him, knowing I’d given too much away, but just then he hissed and jerked me
against him, gripping my hips tighter. I felt his chest heave against mine, our
bodies pressed all the way together. He froze, suddenly breathing heavily.

My head snapped back and my eyes widened. My hand reached down to


cover his. What was that? I asked, curious and hopeful. He growled again and
my knees went weak. He pulled me tighter against him, burying his head in
my shoulder. I could feel his breath against my collarbone, making me shiver.

“Nessie, you definitely can’t do that anymore.” He whispered, holding so still


against me, shaking a little.

Why not? I asked, holding my breath again for the answer.

“Because…because…” his fists clenched and unclenched on my hips.


Because of the wonderful things he does? I sent a few bars from the Wizard
of Oz at him and he laughed, but turned he head more fully into my neck.

“No, silly girl. Because I can’t control myself when I feel…everything you feel
and everything I feel. It’s too much.” But I was already snaking my arm up so
that I could run my fingers over his jaw, my other hand staying on his. I started
out slow, remembering things like the first time we ever saw each other, or
when he first hunted with me. But I built from there.

Soon images were flashing of us at the beach, with my parents, playing


football, reading together. Then I brought out my big guns. Slowly, a little
torturously, I gave him the memory of the first time I’d noticed that I felt
differently. Then how that feeling had grown and grown. I gave him memories
of watching him run with his shirt off, feeling the strength in his arms when he
lifted or hugged me.

He growled against my skin and I replayed it for him, only I showed him how I
made my skin tickle, and how I thought it was so hot. He gave in.

A second later, he was crushing himself to me, molding all my curves to fit all
his hard lines, his mouth hot and demanding on mine, his hands suddenly
everywhere. I gasped and kept sending him more and more images, layered
with everything I was feeling at that moment. I felt his hands grip my wrists
and wrench them away from his skin. He held my hands in one of his as he
gasped for air, backing away from me a few steps.

“You…definitely…You just cannot do that!” He would almost sound angry if


her weren’t so happy. He was smiling down at me, but his eyes held a
warning.

“Why?” I broke my silence because he was currently holding my main sources


of communication with one hand, and with surprising force. He shook his
head, bringing my hands up to his mouth to kiss my fingertips.

“Nessie, think about everything you’re feeling. I mean everything, and then
double it. Maybe even triple it.” I raised my brows. I could barely contain my
own emotions. If they got any bigger, they would completely swamp my brain
and body. He leaned in to me, his eyes teasing with mine.

“It’s harder than you can possibly imagine.” He whispered before dropping a
kiss on my lips, not breaking eye contact. But I’d made my point. He didn’t
kiss me like I’d break. He kissed me like I was his. Like he knew everything
about me and knew exactly where to put his hands and how to place himself
around me so that I felt completely enveloped by him, like I could sink into him
and live there and be happy.

Neither of us noticed the sound of someone else climbing out onto the porch.
Or the slight cough that came from over my shoulder. Nothing mattered but
Jake, and his hands, and his mouth…oh, God, his mouth…
But both of us noticed when my father practically yelled my name in my ear.
Jake pushed away from me so violently he almost fell off the porch. I tried to
cover my laugh with my hand and he glared at me before focusing back onto
my father. He was breathing heavily with the phone in his hand. I cocked my
head to the side.

“Is that…” I pointed to the phone. I could hear someone one the other end
laughing and singing “Finally, finally, finally!” over and over. Dad glanced at
the phone in his hand.

“That’s Alice. She told me to be expecting this.” He narrowed his eyes at


Jacob. “This doesn’t mean anything’s changed.”

“Daddy, this means everything’s changed.” I told him, not at all scared that he
might do something to Jake. He loved Jake. But he was looking at me with
such sadness. Finally he sighed and pulled me into a tight hug.

“I never fully understood why Charlie looked so sad when I married your
mother.” He murmured. “I know, now, though.” He pulled back to look at me.
“You’ll always be my little girl, right?” I nodded and he hugged me again,
squeezing almost painfully before he let me go. “I should go tell your mother.
She’ll be very happy.” He paused before jumping off the porch.

“What happened to the rails?” he asked, pointing to the wood Jake and I had
demolished. We looked at each other guiltily, but dad shook his head at us.
“Don’t worry. I saw the pillow in your room earlier, Nessie.” He smiled
crookedly for some reason. “It must run in the family.” He said before jumping
over the railing onto the ground, running into the forest where I could see my
mother waiting to hunt. I frowned.

“What runs in the family?” I turned to Jake, but he was too busy pulling me
into him and kissing me to answer.