Lizzie waited, maybe hoping I was going to offer her that ride. Or maybe not.

"I'd better get this car back to the guy I borrowed it from," I muttered.

She smiled again. "Glad to hear you're going straight."

"Yeah, you convinced me."

She watched me get in the car, still sort of concerned. I probably looked like someone who was about to drive off a cliff. Which maybe I would've, if that kind of move'd work for a werewolf. She waved once, her eyes trailing after the car.

At first, I drove more sanely on the way back. I wasn't in a rush. I didn't want to go where I was going. Back to that house, back to that forest. Back to the pain I'd run from. Back to being absolutely alone with it.

Okay, that was melodramatic. I wouldn't be all alone, but that was a bad thing. Leah and Seth would have to suffer with me. I was glad Seth wouldn't have to suffer long. Kid didn't deserve to have his peace of mind ruined. Leah didn't, either, but at least it was something she understood. Nothing new about pain for Leah.

I sighed big as I thought about what Leah wanted from me, because I knew now that she was going to get it. I was still pissed at her, but I couldn't ignore the fact that i could make her life easier. And - now that I knew her better - I thought she would probably do this for me, if our positions were reversed.

It would be interesting, at the very least, and strange, too, to have Leah as a companion - as a friend. We were going to get under each other's skin a lot, that was for sure. She wouldn't be one to let me wallow, but I thought that was a good thing. I'd probably need someone to kick my butt now and then. But when it came right down to it, she was really the only friend who had any chance of understanding what I was going through now.

I thought of the hunt this morning, and how close our minds had been for that one moment in time. It hadn't been a bad thing. Different. A little scary, a little awkward. But also nice in a weird way.

I didn't have to be all alone.

And I knew Leah was strong enough to face with me the months that were coming. Months and years. It made me tired to think about it. I felt like I was staring out across an ocean that I was going to have to swim from shore to shore before I could rest again.

So much time coming, and then so little time before it started. Before I was flung into that ocean. Three and a half more days, and here I was, wasting that little bit of time I had.

I started driving too fast again.

I saw Sam and Jared, one on either side of the road like sentinels, as I raced up the road toward Forks. They were well hidden in the thick branches, but I was expecting them, and I knew what to look for. I nodded as I blew past them, not bothering to wonder what they made of my day trip.

I nodded to Leah and Seth, too, as I cruised up the Cullens' driveway. It was starting to get dark, and the clouds were thick on this side of the sound, but I saw their eyes glitter in the glow of the headlights. I would explain to them later. There'd be plenty of time for that.

It was a surprise to find Edward waiting for me in the garage. I hadn't seen him away from Bella in days. I could tell from his face that nothing bad had happened to her. In fact, he looked more peaceful than before. My stomach tightened as I remembered where that peace came from.

It was too bad that - with all my brooding - I'd forgotten to wreck the car. Oh well. I probably wouldn't have been able to stand hurting this car, anyway. Maybe he'd guessed as much, and that's why he'd lent it to me in the first place.

"A few things, Jacob," he said as soon as I cut the engine.

I took a deep breath and held it for a minute. Then, slowly, I got out of the car and threw the keys to him.

"Thanks for the loan," I said sourly. Apparently, it would have to be repaid. "What do you want now?"

"Firstly... I know how averse you are to using your authority with your pack, but..."

I blinked, astonished that he would even dream of starting in on this one. "What?"

"If you can't or won't control Leah, then I - "

"Leah?" I interrupted, speaking through my teeth. "What happened?"

Edward's face was hard. "She came up to see why you'd left so abruptly. I tried to explain. I suppose it might not have come out right."

"What did she do?"

"She phased to her human form and - "

"Really?" I interrupted again, shocked this time. I couldn't process that. Leah letting her guard down right in the mouth of the enemy's lair?

"She wanted to... speak to Bella."

"To Bella?"

Edward got all hissy then. "I won't let Bella be upset like that again. I don't care how justified Leah thinks she is! I didn't hurt her - of course I wouldn't - but I'll throw her out of the house if it happens again. I'll launch her right across the river - "

"Hold on. What did she say?" None of this was making any sense.

Edward took a deep breath, composing himself. "Leah was unnecessarily harsh. I'm not going to pretend that I understand why Bella is unable to let go of you, but I do know that she does not behave this way to hurt you. She suffers a great deal over the pain she's inflicting on you, and on me, by asking you to stay. What Leah said was uncalled for. Bella's been crying - "

"Wait - Leah was yelling at Bella about me?"

He nodded one sharp nod. "You were quite vehemently championed."

Whoa. "I didn't ask her to do that."

"I know."

I rolled my eyes. Of course he knew. He knew everything.

But that was really something about Leah. Who would have believed it? Leah walking into the bloodsuckers' place human to complain about how /was being treated.

"I can't promise to control Leah," I told him. "I won't do that. But I'll talk to her, okay? And I don't think there'll be a repeat. Leah's not one to hold back, so she probably got it all off her chest today."

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