Chapter 34: Watch
Grace woke the next morning in her bed, groggy and hungover. She rubbed a hand down her face and let out a soft groan as she let the light bleed over her face. Sacred vampire wedding punch mixed with three shots of vodka were probably a bad idea.
She pulled herself out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom, turning on the shower and letting the steam settle her stomach. As Grace hopped in the shower, she wondered if any of the pack were there, sleeping on her couch or in her office.
She could feel their presence in the area, but within her home, their spirits quieted. It acted as a refuge, a place where their humanity was always first and they could be just boys, very feverish men who needed an escape from the responsibility that being a wolf warrior crowded in on them in their everyday life. There were no secrets under this roof.
The water trickled warmly down her body and she felt across the length of her abdomen. Her eyes got distant but she didn’t let herself get lost. The warm pang had returned with Jacob’s return and with that came complications. She wasn’t healed, but she was getting there. Ti’Hal had warned her that he would return and that his soul was being called by another’s. Did that mean his imprint had finally emerged? Grace needed to brace herself for the crushing pain that she knew would come at finally losing him to the imprint, but she wasn’t going to let the progress she had made with her pack suffer.
She had to focus. She was going to focus. A gentle knock on her bathroom door snapped her attention.
“Grace?” It was Embry. His soft, calming, even voice sounded muffled as it floated through the crack in the door.
“Yeah,” she answered.
“Sam’s called a gathering at his place tonight...Everyone is supposed to come.”
“Okay,” Grace answered simply again.
“Jake’s going to be there.” Embry clarified. Grace felt a pounding in her ears as the heat waved a bout of nausea through her. She held around her stomach now, trembling softly, keeping herself together, desperate to remain this whole for a little while longer.
“Uh huh,” she managed. Embry didn’t move from his spot by the door.
“You okay?” he asked. Grace tried to pull in hair through her nose and out through her mouth as her stomach roiled. As her mouth filled with spit, she knew the nausea was going to win out and accepted her fate as she unceremoniously hurled in the shower.
She leaned her head back and let the water rinse over her face and opened her mouth to take in some water. After a solid few minutes she called out:
“Yup.” She tried not to look down at her feet.
“Okay,” he said weakly. “Do you need help in there?”
“No, Embry.” Grace said in pain. She heard a shuffling from behind the door and knew he had left her bedroom. She quickly washed up and threw on a robe before cleaning the mess at the bottom of her shower.
When she came downstairs Embry and Quil were posted up at the kitchen table scrounging over left overs. Grace rubbed a towel through her hair and plopped down at an empty spot as they continued to grub.
“How was puking in the shower?” Quil said nonchalantly.
“Shut up,” Grace said softly. “So what’s this gathering about then?” Embry looked up from his food and shot Quil a look before saying,
“We don’t know. Maybe a formal welcome back for Jake? Hard to say.” Grace nodded her head and picked at some bread on the table.
“Or, what about this?” Grace said after a long moment of staring concerned at her bread. “We blow off this mysterious meeting, go to Port Angeles, and sneak into that sketchy nightclub the...the Racket?”
“The Cricket?” Quil offered raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I have a fake ID and you both look 40. We could totally get in. Sam hasn’t made it an order yet has he?” Grace looked at both of their faces eagerly. Quil’s face was alight with the thought that they were potentially blowing off some boring meeting for an outing that was definitely off limits. Embry didn’t seem so game.
“What if we go after?” Embry offered. Always the responsible one. Holding it all together, keeping her on track. Grace sat back and crossed her arms.
“Fine, but you have to promise.”
“Promise.” They both said in unison.
Grace showed up at Emily’s a little late to ensure she wasn’t stuck making small talk or awkwardly staring at Jacob from across the kitchen table. The house was lit up with laughter and light booming from the open door. Grace hesitated on the porch step.
In anticipation for completely bolting off this evening to Port Angeles, she had dressed a little better than she had in months—she wore a thin blue dress dotted with white flowers that clung to her body and was just a tad short. She wore a black leather jacket over it with brown boots that sported a short heel. She had even done her hair and hoped that if Jacob was here that he wouldn’t think she dressed up for him. Her lip curled at the thought and then she pivoted—fuck it, let him think whatever he wanted.
She jogged the rest of the way up the steps, stomping on the rainsoaked wood to help announce her presence and walked through the door with a smile. Her pack was crowded around the kitchen table joking and pushing each in the shoulder. Jared spotted her first.
“Heeeey! You made it. Bout time!” This resulted in a cry and holler coming from around the table to her appearance. Even Paul was in high spirits. Sitting just outside the tight ring of the table, on a high stool with his shaggy hair falling around his face was Jacob. Grace swallowed hard and gave him a curt nod. His eyes narrowed instantly at her, anger flooding his face, and then Sam came out, slapping him on the back and snapping him out of it.
“Good! You’re here.” He looked around the table and a hush fell. “The purpose for this gathering is to come back together as a pack. Jacob’s home. That means that whatever occurred in the past, we should leave it there. We’ve been making great progress and I want that to continue. That will only happen if everyone cooperates,” his eyes moved from each member of the pack, his hand gripped tightly on Jacob’s shoulder before finally resting his eyes on Grace. She only shrunk internally. Outwardly, hands still in her jacket pockets, she nodded.
“Got it,” she said. She glanced for just a second at Paul who had his eyes trained on Sam, suspicious.
“So! Let’s get it all out in the open now and move on. Rip it off like a bandaid so the healing can begin,” he slapped his hands together and Jacob looked shocked for a minute. Sam motioned for him to proceed but he opened and closed his mouth as if he was unprepared. Grace, outwardly looking cool as a cucumber, was screaming on the inside.
“I’ll start!” Quil raised his hand and then stood up. Sam gave him a surprised look and Leah chuckled. “Jake man, it sucked that you took off like that for so long. I get why you did it but you left us in the lurch and we were all really worried. Don’t uuuhhh,” he paused looking around at the stunned pack members, some wore incredulous grins, “Don’t do that again. Right guys?”
There was a small echo of consent from the group.
“Good!” Sam said, looking back to Jake, but Jake’s eyes were on Grace again. She could practically feel the heat coming off of him.
“I didn’t come back for you,” he said. Grace swallowed and nodded. Stay composed. Stay here. She thought.
Paul scoffed and Jacob’s eyes turned black looking at him. “You have something to say?” Paul was shaking his head laughing a little. Grace tensed now.
“Give it a rest dude. We can all see right through that,” he challenged. Jacob was on his feet and Sam put a hand to his chest to steady him. Grace took a step forward but Seth touched her arm.
“What you did was absolute shit. Both of you! And if I had it my way, I’d have nothing to do with either of you ever again!” He shouted.
“So leave! We were doing just fine without you!” Paul was on his feet, all anger with Jared and Quil blocking him. Though Paul had told him to leave, it felt like anything else but that. Grace realized what he was doing—he was drawing Jacob out, letting him get angry so that he could say what he needed to say. A cathartic release.
“You KNEW what she meant to me and you still did it anyway!” Jacob yelled back bucking against Sam now his whole body shaking. His eyes glistened with what Grace thought might be tears, but the rage was unmistakable in his body language.
“It was a MISTAKE. And it’s not always about you Black!” he boomed back. “I apologized. She apologized. There’s nothing we can do to change what happened, but putting her through this unending painfest isn’t going to work out like you think it is.”
“Oh yeah? And why’s that? Because you’re still defending her? Still fucking her too I bet.” Jacob spat. Paul lunged, pusing past Quil and Jared and connecting his fist to Jacob’s face. A sickening crunch sounded and Jacob rocketed back, the stool behind him was reduced to splinters. Sam jumped in front of Paul demanding that he calm down as he shook violently. Jacob was holding his nose which was gushing with blood but nobody moved to help him.
Grace had never seen such blind rage come from Jacob. Paul? Sure. But Jake. Sweet, kind, benevolent Jacob that was like a walking sun never lost it like this. Seth was up and standing next to Grace now, his hand still on her arm. Embry hadn’t moved from his spot, and Leah was rocking back in her chair clearly enjoying the show.
“If you think you deserved her before, you definitely don’t deserve her now. She made a mistake. We both did, but that doesn’t mean that you get to treat her like shit for the rest of her life. That’s not what you want, I know it’s not,” Paul spat. “We’re pack, we won’t let you. Let it go and come back.”
He shook Sam off to show he was okay and reached his hand out to help Jacob off the ground. Jake gave him a confused look and then took his hand, still holding his now healed nose. Jake shoved him in the shoulder and Paul let out a barking laugh. It wasn’t reconciliation, but it was close.
Grace was frozen to the spot still. Jacob joined around the table, not meeting Grace’s eyes, intent on at least ignoring her for the rest of his life if he wasn’t allowed to hate her. Seth motioned for Grace to sit down in his chair and she took it, trying to hide how much her body was shaking.
At the end of their dinner they all spilled out into the cool air. As Grace walked down the porch steps after them, she heard Jacob call out to her. She turned, sucking in a deep breath and hovering on the bottom step looking up at him. He wouldn’t risk coming too close to her, the pull was too strong.
“I haven’t forgiven you.” He said simply. Grace nodded.
“And I don’t want to be your friend.” He continued.
“Got it.” she said, her voice aching. “You’re allowed to stay mad as long as you want.”
“Ready?” Quil was behind her, eager to get going, and Leah was straightening the newly adorned sequined top on her shoulders.
“But I don’t have to sit and watch,” Grace concluded with a small smile, an olive branch. “Ready.” She turned to Quil and looped arms with Leah as they skipped off toward Embry’s car. Jacob stood a little stunned on the porch and his face turned down into a frown before he phased and took off into the forest at full speed, letting his animal instincts take over and smashing into Paul’s shoulder as they took on rounds.
Port Angeles. Paul shared with Jacob. He briefly showed an image of the divey dance club they were headed to and with a laugh said, You’re welcome to go after her if you want.
Not a chance. Jacob growled running faster into the night letting the cool air pull through his fur and set him free.
Okay so maybe going out two nights in a row wasn’t such a great idea. Grace woke with another groan, experiencing a serious bout of deja vu. The sun sprinkled in through the gauzy white curtains and she took a deep breath assessing the level of pain she was sure to be in. Her limbs felt battered and her head was swimming. She had no idea how or when she got home last night which was never a good sign.
She stretched her arms out and heard a grumbled sigh coming from her left. Her eyes shot to the apparent sleeping form next to her.
“Oh god,” she whispered. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Had she brought someone home last night!? She couldn’t remember much, just blue flashing lights on a crowded dance floor, a hand pulling her into a bathroom stall, but that was it. If the pack found out, she’d never live it down.
She leaned up on her elbows. She was fully clothed so that was a good sign. She kicked off her boots and pulled back the bedsheet to see who laid beneath. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the familiar pack tattoo on the forearm of the quietly sleeping form. She never let anyone sleep in her bed with her, why would she do this?!
As her eyes moved up the arm of the sleeping body, her gaze connected to softly cropped hair and smooth, peaceful face of Leah. Grace breathed a sigh of relief and flopped back on the bed. That was close.
She slowly changed out of her blue dress from the night before and pulled on some oversized grey sweats and a black t-shirt that was stocked for a pack member and stumbled down the steps. The sound of sizzling was coming from her kitchen and she yawned, assuming it was Quil or Embry. But as she landed on the bottom step, she saw Quil on the floor and Embry sprawled across the couch with a blankety haphazardly strewn across his body. Confused, Grace turned her head toward the kitchen to see none other than Jacob Black, working away at her kitchen stove and prepping breakfast.
He looked just as gorgeous as ever, loose strands of hair falling in front of his face, the rest tied in a bun. He was wearing a light blue shirt that stood out beautifully against his russet skin, light scars scraped down his right forearm from the incident, and his normal blue cut off jean shorts.
“Hey,” Grace croaked a little embarrassed.
He glanced at her quickly and said with little to no humor in his voice, “You look like shit.”
“Thanks.” she said, still glued to the spot, “Why are you here?” The sun was suddenly glaring in Grace’s eyes and she put a hand up over them.
“Came to check and make sure you all were okay after your little misadventure,” he said, a tone of disappointment clear in his voice.
“What are you talking about?” she rubbed her eyes and moved toward Quil on the floor who was clearly drooling. She slumped down and leaned her head against the back of the couch on Embry’s arm.
“Pretty sure you got dosed, there’s no way in the world you guys could afford enough alcohol to get that trashed.” He murmured, scraping a load of crisped hashbrowns onto a plate.
“Ugggh,” Grace groaned, reaching down to Quil and putting a hand on the back of his neck trying to pull out some of the sick that she felt stirring in his body.
“I didn’t realize roofies made you feel like you got hit by a bus,” Grace said quietly reaching her other hand behind her to place on Embry’s back to do the same for him.
“You’re probably the only one that feels like that. In your drunken glory, you decided to recast everyone back to the rez instead of, oh I don’t know, taking a cab back? You recast three people, blasted out of your mind, appeared too close to the cliff edge, slipped, and hit some rocks on your way down to the water.” He shook his head and cursed under his breath. “Absolutely idiotic, you could have died.”
“Thank you, Jacob, I get it.” Grace said as the dizziness caused her vision to go blurry.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. They kind of deserve to feel the after effects of their mistakes if you ask me.” He said setting some food down on the kitchen table.
“Good thing I wasn’t asking you,” Grace grumbled uncomfortably. Jacob came over, chewing a piece of toast and shook Embry’s shoulder, ignoring Grace’s quip. “Em, wake up man, breakfast.” Embry mumbled something very close to ‘okay’ and promptly fell back asleep. When Jake came around to pat Quil on the face, he received a very mumbled and slurred, “Fuck off, Jake” from Quil. Grace let out a laugh and then flinched at the blinding pain swimming in her head now as she tried to relieve some of Quil and Embry’s hangover on top of her own.
“More for me.” Jake said resigned and walked to the kitchen table to dig in.
“Grum...py,” Embry muffled, his face pressed against the couch cushions. After a few minutes of groaning, Embry pulled his body up, grabbing Grace’s hand and pressing it to his cheek for a few extra seconds before stumbling to the table and plopping down next to Jake.
Quil also was able to pull his body up and stayed seated next to Grace as she continued holding onto and gently rubbing his neck. Leah nearly fell down the stairs, catching herself on the railing and letting out a laugh. Quil opened his eyes and looked wide eyed at Leah.
“You let her sleep in your bed?!” Grace laughed, her eyes closed now. “Hot,” he murmured.
“Shut up, Quil,” Leah grumbled making her way to the table. Quil took Grace’s hand off of his neck and said:
“Come on, breakfast!” He was clearly feeling a little better.
“Gonna sit for a bit,” Grace slurred. Quil patted her head and dug in with his pack mates as Grace leaned her head back on the couch. She only faintly heard what they were saying as she faded in and out of sleep, but she thought the jist of it was catching Jacob up on what they found on rounds these past three months.
Grace woke up, head still slung back on the couch sometime later and felt her mouth was exceptionally dry. She stumbled to her feet and earned the stares of the group at the kitchen table. Her head was pounding and she felt her heartbeat racing as she walked slowly toward the foot of the stairs.
“She’s gonna go puke in the shower again I bet,” Quil said.
“Shut–” Grace muttered as she put her first foot on the staircase and inhaled a deep breath. “Ookay.” She only got about four stairs up before she stumbled and came crashing down, but a hand caught her around the waist before she fell face first into the wooden staircase.
“Jesus Grace,” Jacob muttered, pulling her to her feet.
“Don’t touch me,” she slurred, slapping his hand away from her. “I go’this.” Jake let go of her but slowly followed her as she made her way up the steps, hands outstretched to catch her if she fell again. Once she made it into her bedroom and into her bathroom, Jacob stood awkwardly in her room not sure what to do. She turned the water on to the shower and started pulling off her sweats.
“You’re not going to fall and smack your head in the shower, right?” Jacob asked, annoyed this time.
“Go’way Jacob,” she said before peeling off her shirt now and stepping into the steam. Grace lost track of time, but the next time she felt herself coming to she was on the floor with her robe draped over her. The cool tile was a relief on her cheek and as she picked her head up and looked around, she realized she was next to the toilet. She stayed there dazed for a minute. The sun was setting and she felt immensely better. There was a glass filled with water placed next to her and she drank it down happily. Outside the door, Grace heard footsteps approaching.
The door swung open to reveal Leah, in her tattered sundress that she used to cover up after phasing.
“I am?” Grace questioned rubbing her hand across her forward. Leah crossed the bathroom floor and grabbed a bottle of aspirin from the medicine cabinet and dumped some in her hand to give to Grace.
“Apparently. You still kind of look like shit.” Leah grimaced, squatting down with a cold wash rag and placing it against her face.
“Roofies,” Grace said quietly. “Hey why aren’t you...you know?”
“Flat on my ass?” Leah clarified with a smile.
“Yeah, I don’t remember giving you the whoosh,” Grace held up her hand as if to touch her but missed.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the first time I’ve been dosed. Must have built up a tolerance? Or just too stubborn,” Leah said with a laugh.
“That’s fucked up,” Grace whined. “Help me up.” She reached out for Leah’s hands as she helped her pull her up off the floor.
“You good?” Leah said. She wasn’t big into touching, but she was usually a little more open around Grace. Still, Grace could tell the touching made her uncomfortable.
“Good.” Grace said walking out of the bathroom and into her bedroom.
“There’s some leftovers downstairs. I got to a shift, but Seth is going to swing by and check on you in a few hours, okay?”
Grace waved her away as she pulled clothes down from her closet. She inwardly vowed to take a pause on the going out and drinking for awhile to get her head on straight. Especially since Jacob was back.
She paused and then let out an embarrassed groan at her recollection of the events earlier that day. His hand catching her around the waist, the searing warmth causing her to jerk from a phantom pain. His introduction back into Grace’s life presented her as much of a mess as when he left.
She vowed to do better. For herself mostly, but also to show Jake that she was okay. Really, she was okay. Maybe.