Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chapter 6 - Stealing Forever - Leave it All Behind

Jacob drove the next hour or so in silence. His only comfort, the swish of cars beside him, the grind of tire against road.

He opted not to turn the radio on, it seemed almost blasphemous at this point to enjoy even the smallest pleasures. It pained him even to think that he would find any happiness, however minute, while he had been the catalyst for so much pain around him.

He wasn't even sure he could process the music anyway.

So, he was quiet. They all were.

They couldn't find the words, so they fed off the silence. Exhaustion hung in the enclosed space like a thick, choking fog.

He drove, biting the side of his lip until it was almost raw, deep in thought. He thought about Quil mostly.

About how he should have driven.

The guilt. Quil wouldn't have even been in that car if he wasn't trying to help him out of his bitchfit depression.

And now...

He was gone. Because of his own selfishness.

Finally, Claire begged him to stop in Baltimore so she could use the restroom. Embry complained that he hadn't eaten since that morning.

Jacob didn't realize his own stomach had been rumbling for the past hour until Embry's admission and glanced at the clock.

It was just past midnight.

He hadn't stopped for gas before they left, obviously, and the tank was nearly empty by the time they reached Towson, Maryland anyway. He pulled off on the next exit on 83-South, and into a pretty harmless-looking gas station with a diner attached. Claire disappeared into the woman's washroom to the rear of the diner, while Jacob hopped out to fill up the truck. Embry didn't move at first, but thought better of letting Claire go into the 24-hour restaurant alone, so he unbuckled the constrictive seatbelt and followed her in. He found an empty booth and sat on the bright red leather, tapping his fingers anxiously and bouncing his leg.

There weren't many people there, an older couple that he thought seemed pretty out of place there this late at night. Next to them, a couple that seemed to be trying hard to keep their hands off each other, but not being very successful. There were a few tables of twenty-somethings he assumed went to the local college who were eating and laughing.

Laughter. It seemed a foreign concept at this point in his life. Inhaling and releasing a tired breath, he looked up and caught eyes with Claire and she maneuvered between the tables to slide into the booth beside him. She looked worn and frazzled, and Embry was sure she'd want to get out of that dress soon.

She glanced up at him, scooting closer to him, just needing to feel the closeness of someone, and he was the best person for the job at the moment. She felt the tears begin to form again, but swallowed them back as their middle-aged waitress stopped and took their drink orders.

Diet Coke for Claire.

Iced Tea for Embry.

Claire remembered that Jake loved Mountain Dew, so she went with that for him.

"Alrighty," she said cordially, "I'll have those right out for you. The specials are a fresh vegetable soup with grilled ham and cheese for $3.99 and the bacon cheeseburger with fries..."

It was fuzzy. Watery.

That was enough for Claire; her hearing completely stopped, if that's even possible.

She was exhausted, and didn't feel like listening to this woman for a second longer, so she ducked her head and scooted closer still to Embry, and he draped his arm protectively around her body after feeling her shiver. It was cold in the diner, so he shrugged out of his suit jacket and placed it on her shoulders. It swallowed her, but was warm and smelled like Embry, so she accepted it without protest.

"Give us a minute, will you?" Embry said softly to the waitress, understanding Claire's distress. She snuggled closer to him, closing her eyes, and letting a few slow tears fall. He held her closer, tighter, wanting to comfort her, but knowing he could only do so much. He glanced up at the chiming bells attached to the glass door at that moment, as Jake's large body made its way to their table.

As so many times in his life, he drew attention to himself, just from his sheer size, not to mention there weren't too many Natives just hanging around in clusters in the Northeast. One table of girls stopped their conversation in mid-sentence as he approached them, gawking at him wantonly. Several more eyes were on him as he lithely slid into the booth opposite Embry and Claire, though he ignored them all in favor of ducking his head into the provided menu. He looked at them briefly, then, when it was too painful to stare at Claire, who was on the verge of tears, and Embry, who looked blank, broken, he looked around the restaurant, then at the menu. Anything to rest his eyes on except the two sitting in front of him.

The waitress was back in five minutes and they all ordered food. Jake gathered the menus, handing them to her...the bright restaurant lights shining brightly off the thick laminated surface...

...The flash of dual lights, the loss of balance flipping...flipping...

Jacob squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt the familiar gripping, clawing at his stomach. Suddenly his ribs ached exponentially more, and he reached and held his tender side trying not to breathe too deeply.

Fuck he wished the doctor would have given him something stronger than fucking ibuprofen, even if they were the huge fucking horse kind. He guessed once he left that fucking hospital, that was the end of the drugs that ended in -ect, and -din.

He couldn't deal with this shit right now.

Those fucking flashbacks were coming more frequently now that he'd regained his memory. He felt his breathing pickup; he felt the anxiety, the panic, but fought it. Fought the urge to run, and scrubbed his hand over his face.

It hurt.

It hurt to still be here without Quil. It hurt even more to know that he'd played a part in his death.

It hurt to think about Rose and what she was doing at the moment. Was she even thinking about him? She had come to the funeral, and sat in the back with her sister. He'd caught eyes with her for just a brief moment, her blue eyes filled with sadness and something else he couldn't place. Longing? She slipped out at the end of the service, and at that moment, Jacob was torn. A part of him would want nothing more than to have her comfort him. To regain some balance and still his mind. The other part, was still so furious at her, he could barely look at her. He longed for A month ago when his life was perfect, or so it seemed.

It hurt to remember. The blood. The smell so strong, so acrid, so potent in his memory, he'd swear Quil was still beside him in that crushed truck.

Claire searched his face and wanted to sit next to him, to comfort him, even in her own despair. She ran her eyes over his handsome face, bruises and cuts marring the once perfect brown skin. He was there with her Quil. He was in the accident; Claire couldn't even begin to imagine how he must have been feeling at that moment. He hadn't talked much since the hospital, and even less after the service and she knew that couldn't be healthy for him. She wanted to run her fingers along his jaw and wrap her arms around him and pull him close to her, to coo and tell him everything would be okay in time.

Though, she wasn't even sure she believed that herself.

His level of loss was so much different than hers or Embry's. He was there. He had seen it all.

And in the midst of her tears, her pain, that very sobering fact hung thickly in her mind.

"Jake..." she didn't know what to say, he was so deep into his mind, there, kneading his temples, eyes closed. He slowly looked at her, and the pain...

It was staggering.

She looked at him, and couldn't force back the stream of tears that flowed. She cried for him.

What would she do now? Quil was her life, her whole world, her soulmate.

More tears came, now enough to dampen the front of Embry's shirt. He felt the wetness, and let her cry, stroking her upper arm with his palm. he couldn't imaged how she was feeling at the moment. He'd bounced around in several relationships, never anything too serious, he was ashamed to say. Embry was always too caught up in his own shit to ever give any real time or effort to a girl. He couldn't fathom loosing someone that he'd loved enough to ask to spend the rest of their lives with him.

Jacob barely registered the bubbly waitress or her genial banter. He could barely taste the food he chewed in his mouth.

He knew he had to eat, and he was starving, but, the energy, the will just...wasn't there. After some time, he figured they should leave, because Claire was all but completely asleep on Embry's shoulder.

He wanted to cry so bad. He wanted to cry, but he couldn't seem to climb out of the hole he'd been dragged into.

He just. He just couldn't find the energy. The pain was so raw, so all consuming, every nerve in his body was frayed and exposed.

"Come on Jake..." Embry was talking to him about something. Leaving? He had Claire protectively tucked on his side, and looked at Jake sadly, "I can drive, okay?"

Jacob nodded and slid from the booth, walking a few steps ahead of Claire and Embry, reaching the truck before the two of them, and climbing into the front seat.

He just wanted to sleep. Sleep...

Without any real direction, Embry hopped behind the wheel after laying Claire in the back.

Now. Where the fuck was he going? What the hell was Jake thinking when he decided to leave? Jake would never run away. Embry was much more apt to do something that impulsive.

Okay, so he figured Jake definitely didn't want to go back to Philly; that's where they'd just come from, and to head back north would have been stupid after driving away for almost two hours. East would get them to DC, or even Eastern Shore, and neither one of those options seemed particularly viable at the moment.

The only place he knew close enough that he could get there without falling asleep at the wheel, was Crystal City. It'd take him just under two hours. The area was nice and they could camp out there until they figured this whole shit out in the morning, once they'd all rested and gotten a hold on this whole fucked up situation. He searched on his iPhone for a decent hotel within the Crystal city zip code and programmed Jake's GPS for the hour and a half drive. Today had been the longest day since, well...

In a long time.

Embry just wanted this shit to be over. He just wanted to press reset, like on Nintendo and start brand new. Like nothing ever happened. Like Quil was still here. Like Jake wasn't scaring the shit out of him with the hopelessness in his eyes, and like he didn't have to have a reason to console Quil's fiancé.

Like everything was okay.

He glanced at his closest friend, arms folded across his chest to the left of him, turned toward the passenger window, just staring. Looking at what, Embry couldn't know, but he knew his friend was still hurting. He wasn't a fucking shrink, and the three of them never really talked about shit like, well, feelings, but he wanted to be there for him, to help him, but he could barely help himself.

Embry knew at that moment, though Jake had always been the leader- the one who got them into a bunch of bullshit over the years, but had also been the catalyst for some of the best times in his life- he was the only one in this car that had their wits even remotely about him.

Under normal circumstances, Embry would have run kicking and screaming at the thought of this level of responsibility. Taking care of someone other than himself? Well, it just wasn't his thing. But these two were just about the last people on the planet that he had left, so, well...fuck running alone.

He had to fucking steer this ship. For now at least.

He glanced back at Claire to make sure she was comfortable. She was curled up on the left corner of the leather seat, with his jacket draped over her body like a makeshift blanket, eyes shut, slight frown, almost too faint to notice. Embry was comfortable knowing she was at least able to sleep a little at this point.

It was times like this he really wished he had family. Well, he had family, but not the kind that gave a shit when your best friend died or that you'd gone on a random road trip and have yet to let them know you've even left the state.

No. He didn't have that.

He'd always been kinda jealous of Jake and even more of Quil. They were perfect. Their families loved them, they were golden in their eyes. Over the years, he'd found himself spending more and more time away from his house, because god knows he couldn't stay there for more than an hour at a time. It was just easier to let Ms. Atera fawn over him, or tell him how amazing an artist he was or how glad she was that he was dating Leah.

Yeah, that positive reinforcement shit really did work.

Putting a check in the mail every month or cash in his account used to be great. Fucking awesome. Just give him the money and stay off his back, but after a while, he'd trade in everything he had just to have parents who even gave a fuck. Even in the smallest amount.

He really wanted to turn on the radio. Anything to drown out the thoughts that almost always came when he was alone. He glanced at the two of them again, careful not to take his eyes off the road, and he guessed he would have to make do with the sounds of the cars around him and the light breathing of Jake beside him. That would have to be enough for now, at least until they got to the hotel.

He heard Claire shift in the back, and the soft zip of her stockinged legs rubbing together as she tucked them under her in an attempt to get more comfortable. Embry knew there was no way anyone could be even remotely comfortable in a dress and stockings on a road trip. He was beginning to lose his mind and at least he had the luxury of pants and flat shoes.

He had to get her something to change into.

She hadn't brought anything at all with her except that massive purse. And, while he was sure she could fit a change of clothes in there, he was pretty sure she didn't have any, or, if for nothing else, she would have changed already.

Yeah, he would have to stop for her. Shit, he'd have to stop for himself. They'd have to go to a mall or something in the morning. But, wait, what would she sleep in tonight? That dress? Fuck no. Um. His shirt? Well, maybe.

His internal rambling went on for the majority of the ride, until the city of Washington, D.C. gave way to the rolling green shadows of Arlington, Virginia, and Embry started recognizing more and more of his surroundings. There was an exit to a pretty nice Marriott, so he decided they could get a couple rooms there, maybe even a suite, cause there was no fucking way these two were sleeping without him right there.

Just before they pulled into the hotel parking lot, he saw that there was a Wal-mart about five blocks down Jefferson Davis, so he thought that would work pretty well. He would have preferred at least a Target, but at those early morning hours, beggars couldn't be choosers. It would work well enough - he could get clothes for the both of them, some to at least last them until the morning.

He tried to close and lock the drivers-side door as quietly as possible without waking them, and walked quickly through the automatic doors of the 24-hour store.

First, the shit he knew about - toothbrushes, combs, brushes. Check.

He figured she might want to wash her hair, so, after looking pretty helpless at several options, he just picked the most expensive one. Fuck it. maybe a sweatsuit or something for Claire? She looked about like a small? medium? That black one looks pretty good. He guessed she'd need a shirt or something to go under it, so picked a couple of those.

Er...sleep wear. He needed to find something that looked pretty generic.

For a fucking family store, there sure was a bunch of lacy and sheer shit at Wal-mart.

Um, ok, tank and shorts look about right. Er...


Geez. He really didn't like doing this shit at all. No matter how hot he thought Claire was, he wouldn't admit it, and he definitely didn't want to think about picking out her underwear, Quil would have punched him for even suggesting this shit. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

Fuck it....okay. She looked about like, um. Medium on top and bottom? Fuck if he knew. Why not try it all? After throwing a few more items for both of them into the cart, including four sizes of the same 3 sets of bras and panties, the harsh florescent lighting began to annoy him.

He finally remembered why he never came in these places.

He grabbed a couple of gym bags to put all the shit in- he definitely didn't want the lady at check-in to look at him sideways when they walked to their room with only plastic bags. Yeah.

Probably wouldn't fare well for them. Three minorities in a fancy hotel in Crystal City that checked in with Wal-Mart bags at two in the morning.


The gym bags would have to do until he could get to a luggage store or something.

He ran into the hotel and plunked down his AMEX for a decent-sized suite with two double beds and a King in the master. The stiff skinny guy behind the counter who smelled of cigarettes and had too much product in his hair eyed him as he was typing up his information, like he didn't believe it was his card.

Embry swallowed the desire to punch this fucker, and snatched the receipt from his fingertips.

"Thank you for rooming with Crystal City Marriott; you have a wonderful stay. Be sure to let us know how we can be of assistance, Mr...." he glanced down at the paper, "...Call."

"Yeah, Igor, you have a map around here?" Skinny Dude looked startled and offended, but brushed it off with a frown. Embry cocked an eyebrow, silently challenging the guy and began searching the front desk area for any sign of roadmaps.

"Well, sir, we have maps of tours of Arlington Cemetery and Washington here, there are shuttles..."

"Thanks Shaggy," Embry cut him off snatching a fist full of maps of the area and jogged back to the truck. It was too fucking late to deal with that motherfucker, and he was exhausted. Jumping back in the driver's seat, he turned to face Claire and Jacob.

"Guys..." he whispered to the two asleep behind and the left of him. Neither of them stirred. "Guys," he said a little louder, pushing Jacob's shoulder, and starting to step from the large SUV. He walked to Claire's door and pulled the door open. Squinting against the surprisingly bright parking lot lights, she looked up at Embry, confused.

"Come on," he whispered. "We got a room here, time to get up..." He talked to her softly, and it took a while to even figure out where they were. A hotel, she had gathered, but, where?

"Where...where are we?" she mumbled as he set her shoes in front of her on the concrete. She stepped into them obediently and pulled his coat around her, even though it was fairly warm out. It made her feel safe.

"We're in northern Virginia. Crystal City to be exact. I got a room for us, okay?" he responded, trying to help her understand, to relax.

"Oh...okay," she whispered, feeling Jacob next to her, who had obviously heard the conversation. He looked down at her with tender eyes, and clasped her hand.

"Come on."

Embry grabbed the stuff from Wal-Mart and stuffed it all into both the bags he'd purchased, handed Jake his gym bag, then lead them to an elevator to the sixth floor.

Claire glanced around, wanting nothing more than to take a shower and a couple of sleeping pills and sleep until the next century. She felt lost. What the hell was supposed to happen now? Here they all were, three or more hours away from Philadelphia on a whim and she really didn't know why. Embry interrupted her thoughts.

"Hey...hey," he motioned to her, setting the bag on the king bed. "I figured you might need some stuff, so, I uh... I stopped off while you two were sleeping a while ago."

He unzipped the bag and Claire was delighted to know she could take these clothes off and wash this impossibly difficult day away. She smiled at him, more grateful to him for this gesture than she could ever express. His eyes twinkled, and she couldn't help but smile the first smile she could conjure all day. Hell, all week. It was small, it was pained, but, it was there.

"Thank you so much Em." She slipped out of her pumps and slipped her arms around his waist. He felt so good, so safe, so warm.

"No problem, C. I couldn't have you walking around in that dress for, well, however long we plan to be gone, now, could I?" He kissed the top of her head, pausing to smell the light peach scent of her shampoo. He was sure that the shampoo he'd selected smelled great - he smelled a few of them himself - but it definitely wasn't peach. He'd have to remember that next time.

"We gotta go to the mall or something in the morning, but, I figured this stuff would get you until then."

She smiled again, stepping back to look him in the eye. "Its perfect, Em. it really is."

"Yeah, E, thanks for taking care of this," Jacob said unpacking some of his things slowly. " I guess we can take these two beds, Claire can take the master?"

"Yep, that's what I was thinking," Embry said leading her into the room. "Now, you get comfortable, okay? We'll be right on the other side of the living room."

He stroked her face and kissed her temple tenderly, not really wanting to leave her, but that's what was supposed to happen. He didn't want to overstep, despite feeling the need to comfort her, really, both of them. He knew he would check on her all night, but for now, he'd give her her privacy. Jacob followed suit, only kissing the back of her hands and hugging her tightly to his chest.

She nodded and closed the double doors with a soft click after they'd exited.

All she wanted to do was get into bed, so she reached behind her back attempting to rid herself of the form-fitting dress. She had trouble at first, but she stretched her arm behind her, reaching for the zipper, finally unzipping it and letting it fall to the ground.

If Quil was there, he'd have asked her if she needed help in the shower, she'd smile and say 'yes, of course.' He would join her soon after, where very little showering would have taken place.


But he wasn't there. She was alone as the hot water beat against her body. She stood there for an indeterminate amount of time, finally willing herself to wash. She couldn't go back into the darkness. She wouldn't have Embry or Jacob having to come and carry out her out of the shower like her mother and sister had had to do.

No. She couldn't place that level of responsibility on them.

She forced herself to wash her hair. She forced herself to lather her body and rinse. She forced herself into a towel, and into the perfect pajama short set Embry had picked. She forced the hotel-issued blow-dryer over her hair, then forced her hair into a knot.

It was all forced. But she did it, and that was enough for her at the moment.

She forced her eyes closed as she sunk into the frighteningly large bed. Alone.

She didn't sleep though. No. Hours ticked by and after a while, she couldn't hear the movement or talk of the boys on the other side of the suite any longer.

It was quiet.

It was quiet, and she was horrifyingly alone.

Before she even registered what she was doing, she was up and out of her bed, and peeking into Embry and Jacob's room, where they were both sound asleep.

This wasn't alone. This was an us. A we.

She slipped into Embry's bed, as silently as she could, and scooted closer to him, wanting so badly for him to take the pain away. To make her feel less alone.

Embry felt the bed move under her weight and barely opened an eye in the darkness, only reaching out to her with his arm. She fell into the perfect space between his chest and upper arm, and finally felt some sense of normalcy, whatever normalcy was at this point. He pulled her closer to him, and she rested her arm across his chest, and they were almost okay.


But, tomorrow, was another day.



A/N - Thanks for reading and sticking with my own little emo fic. Also, thanks to my beta team, this time, VampWolfGamma, you rock.

Thank you to everyone who voted, Stealing Forever won the Quileute "La Push" Challenge **happy dance.** For those who care, the winning banner is here: http : // farm3. static. flickr. com /2503/4228931443_e1e1399d0a_o .jpg

And yes, there really is a Marriott in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia, FYI.

DISCLAIMER: Twilight characters and related likeness are owned by Stephenie Meyer, Little Brown Publishing. No profits have been received in the production of this piece.

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