Chapter 15

"No, I ain't happy yet

But I'm way less sad"

AJR - Way Less Sad

Tessa Cameron was parked in front of his house. He'd already decided that he was too dangerous to be around her and that it was for the best that she intentionally avoided him. One night of talking on a cliff changed nothing. She still didn't want to be around him, and he didn't want to hurt her.

But then why was she here?

She had started when she first noticed him, but then recognition lit up in her eyes. He'd paused at a good distance away from her.

"I was just dropping a friend off from a party," she said. "You know how you park at the house next to theirs, so their parents don't see."

Disappointment hit him harder than it should have. Stupid to even think that she was here to see him. How many times had she expressly stated to the contrary? This was much safer for her. So, he bit back the emotions and started small talk.

"You were at that beach party?"

She didn't strike him as the party type, though, what did he know? He didn't really know her that much, as much as that hurt to admit.

"Yeah, what else is a teen supposed to do around here for fun?" She leaned against the door of her car.

Memories of the parties he'd gone to back in Seattle felt aged and foggy as if decades had passed instead of months. They'd been fun, but he couldn't recall the carefree feelings he'd had from back then.

"There is cliff jumping. That's thrilling, I guess."

Tessa rose her right eyebrow in perfect form as she always did. Her simple reaction made him snort.

"Right, well some of us like the idea of living past graduation."

"I guess there's hiking. If you're into trees and shit."

She nodded but otherwise seemed to be thinking about something else now. Ugh. What was he saying?

She must have grown tired of the small talk. Part of him knew he had to end the conversation, but he forgot how nice it felt to be around her. It was easier. But she didn't feel the same way. If anything, she must have felt more anxious near him. Not like he could fault her for that.

He edged toward the lawn, away from her and her car.

"Well, I hope you had fun, " He said lamely, giving her an easy out from the small talk.

"Were you there?" Tessa asked. "The party, I mean. I didn't see you there."

He stopped his retreat. She had looked for him?

"Uh, no. I was patrolling out on the east side of La Push tonight."

Jake's pack had taken care of patrolling the party tonight. The packs always patrolled different areas to avoid any confusion. He could have been imagining it, but Tessa sounded like she wanted to keep talking. She hadn't tried to edge toward the car door or make an attempt to leave the conversation.

"I'm curious. What exactly do you do on 'patrol'?"

"Run around in circles hoping that you don't find a vampire scent."

She nodded thoughtfully.

"Have there been any more vampires since the last one you told me about?"

She didn't sound scared, and he couldn't sense any fear from her either. Simply curious.

"No. Just the one bloodsucker. Well, other than the Cullens, but they don't come here."

"Right. The legends say that." She wrinkled her nose. "They aren't really the same vampires though, are they?"

"That's what everyone else told me."

"That's so weird. What are they even doing here? I remember when the Cullens moved to Forks a few years ago and everyone was all mad about it."

"They pretend to be human and argue about whether they have souls or not."

At least that's what he gathered from Seth and Leah. He hadn't seen one of the Cullens since January. Thankfully.

"So, they're weird and existential," she snorted. "They sound like the kooky side of the family you try to forget exists."

Yeah, most of them wished the Cullens didn't exist. If they didn't, then everything would have been normal. If everything were normal, than his biggest problem in life would be having to go to summer school. He'd just be a regular teenager in Seattle. Not to mention the near-death crisis with the Volturi. Or the other vampire battle that the others told him about. Even just remembering being on that field made his heart race. It wasn't something any of them liked to remember, though it came up way to often in their thoughts. He knew he wasn't the only one to still have nightmares about it.

"Are you okay?" Tessa asked, breaking him from his thoughts.

He nodded, surprised that he wasn't shaking. Despite the anxious thoughts, he still felt calm. And the more he focused on Tessa, the easier it was to forget that he'd been feeling anxiety at all. Her brown eyes weren't gentle. Actually, they looked sharp and inquisitive, but that didn't make them any less comforting to look into. She tilted her head slightly, studying him. Then she checked her watch.

"It's almost five," she said. "Want to get breakfast in Forks?"

She wanted to spend time with him. It was the first thing he could think. He immediately realized how pathetic he was, but he also couldn't deny the warmth growing in his chest. He almost said yes. It was the normalcy that stopped him. He realized how close they'd be if he agreed. He'd have to get in her car. And if he lost control? Would he have enough time to get out of the car before hurting her?

He'd already decided to keep his distance for her safety, but that was with the knowledge that she wanted nothing to do with him. Why the sudden change?

"I… can't." He stared at the ground. Maybe he was reading too much into this interaction. Maybe she was only offering to be nice. But why?

Then she unfolded her arms and began walking toward him. No hesitation.

He stumbled back, trying to keep a distance between them. That made Tessa pause. He couldn't read her expression; she schooled her features to betray nothing.

"Um, I should probably go inside. It's been a long night and all, and you still have to drive home so…"

She took another step toward him, this time slowly. "I know you have to be hungry. That's a werewolf thing right? Always eating?"

"Tessa, it's really not a good idea," He whispered. "I don't have the same control like the others. I could really hurt... someone." He couldn't say "you".

She took another step forward while shrugging. "Well, how else are you going to get better if you don't push yourself."

He should have backed up. He wanted to walk toward her. The conflicting instincts kept him frozen.

"I can't risk it."

"Then you'll always be afraid." She was right in front of him now, looking up at him. She placed her hands on her hips and stared. "So, what's it gonna be, Jonathan?"

She really didn't understand what he was capable of. His parents had paid the price for that mistake. Now, they were afraid of him. Horrified. He could barely handle that. He couldn't go through it again with Tessa. Hurting her, seeing fear in her eyes. With her so close, it would be too easy to hurt her. His hands began to tremble.

Before he could even think to run, Tessa reached up and gripped his shoulder. She narrowed her eyes, though they never left his.

"Listen to me. Breathe. Okay? Breathe in." She demanded.

He took in a gasping breath.

"Slowly. Hold it in. Keep holding it. Now exhale."

The world narrowed down to three things. Her voice, her hand on his shoulder, and his breaths. Even time was lost to him. Tessa repeated her commands until everything slipped back.

"Are you crazy?" He demanded, shaking off her grip.

"Be quiet." She snapped. "Let's not wake the whole neighborhood."

Neighborhood be damned!

"Why did you do that? I literally just told you I didn't want to hurt you!"

"You were having a panic attack." She was still standing so close.

"I was about to phase!"

"You didn't though." She crossed her arms and had the nerve to smirk.

"I-" He broke off, the words dying in his throat. She was right. Somehow, he'd been able to stop the shaking and calm down. That'd never happened before. Sure, sometimes he could shove everything back for a bit if it wasn't too bad, but if Tessa hadn't intervened, he would have phased within seconds.

Tessa arched her eyebrow as if to say, 'I told you so'.

"You could have gotten hurt," He finally said.

"But I didn't."

He couldn't decide what had stopped the shift. Her or the breathing technique. He couldn't imagine anyone else being able to pull it off, but what would have happened if she just told him to calm down?

"My little brother Elliot used to get pretty bad anxiety when he was younger. My parents taught us the breathing thing to help him."

"This is a little different than anxiety." He scoffed.

"Nope. That was clearly a panic attack. You didn't start shaking until you were talking about hurting someone. You also had a panic attack back in January when we first met." Her brazen tone left no room for argument.

"I didn't start shaking until you came near me after I told you I didn't have good control."

"I'm also the one who stopped you from phasing or whatever you call it."

It was another point he couldn't deny.

"How are you feeling?" She asked not so much with sympathy, but curiosity.

It shouldn't have felt so complicated, but there were so many streams of emotions fighting each other in his head. Of course, he was upset at what could have just happened. He honestly didn't know how he could live with himself if he'd done anything to hurt Tessa. But there was also amazement that she had rushed toward him and actually managed to help him. No one else had really been successful with that. Even Sam couldn't help much there. Yet she was able to calm him down with a breathing exercise? It had to have been the imprint. That was the only thing that made sense.

"I don't really know." He admitted.

"Then let's go talk about it over breakfast." She turned toward her car without waiting for a response from him.

A waitress offered a tired smile and placed two mugs of coffee on the table. Tessa smiled warmly and thanked her. The café was practically empty. Two loggers were at the bar stools eating a quick breakfast before they began their workday, and three people staffed the whole place. Jonathan tried to find some comfort in that. For further precautions, he had immediately sat at the table closest to the entrance when they came in, which had prompted Tessa to roll her eyes at him. He wrapped his hands around the coffee mug. It was actually warm which was a rare feeling for him.

"Try not to look like I'm forcing you to be here." Tessa stage whispered to him before sipping at her own coffee.

He grabbed a bowl with sugar cubes in it and began to drop them in the mug. She sighed when he didn't stop after five.

"Fan of sugar?" She quipped.

"Sure." He smiled uneasily.

Just because he had stopped himself from phasing didn't mean it wouldn't happen again.

"Shit. When Sam finds out I was here." He groaned.

"So don't tell him." Tessa shrugged.

"It's not that easy. Mind reading. Remember?"

"Ugh. I couldn't stand that." She shuddered. "It sounds so… invasive. Well, you're already here, so might as well enjoy it."

"Right." He muttered, dunking one final sugar cube into the mug only because it threatened to spill the coffee over onto the table. "It's that easy."

"Should be. You're in great company." Tessa flashed a wide smile, then she added a bit more quietly, "And so am I."

The last bit threw him off. Honestly, confusion had been nagging in the back of his mind since he saw her in front of Sue's house.

"Well, your choice of company is questionable." He murmured.

"I don't think so." She sipped at her coffee again. His face must have given something away because she set the mug down and leaned forward a bit. "You want to ask me something?"

"I guess I'm confused." His eyes darted back down. He focused on stirring the dissolving sugar while he talked. "You didn't want anything to do with me. Now we're eating breakfast together."

The server—Mattie, according to the nametag—walked up with two large plates as if she'd been summoned.

"Here you are, kiddos. Waffles for the miss, the logger's breakfast for the lad."

Jonathan's stomach twisted, and he readily accepted the food as a new distraction. He salted and peppered the eggs, while Tessa poured syrup over the waffles. He peeked up at her as he took a bite. She chewed on her bottom lip a bit before setting the syrup back down in its place.

"It's rather unrealistic to try to avoid you. What is it, the third time we've run into each other since this all began?"

"Lots of people run into each other." He tried to keep a smooth face. Keeping wary control over his emotions had been an easier feat when he was around her. "Leah and Sam. Julia and Paul. You and Jared."

When she didn't react to his words, he'd wondered if he'd pissed her off.

She began cutting a piece of the waffle with her fork. She analyzed the piece before biting it off her fork. She set the silverware down, and squared her shoulders, looking him dead in the eye. He almost looked away from the direct eye contact, but he found it difficult to try.

"I never hated you. I hated not having a choice. Everyone told me that I was bound to you now, and I wouldn't accept that. I haven't fought this long just to be told to give up on my dreams."

"I know. I remember." He recalled when she stormed up to him at the beach earlier in the year.

"But you haven't done that." She continued. "You listened to me. At the beach. On the cliff. Now. You don't pity me. Or at least I don't think you do. I don't have a lot of people who're like that. It's kinda nice."

He could hear his heart beating faster. It felt lighter. The mug of sugar was long forgotten as a distraction now. He hoped his face didn't look weird or creepy.

"So where does that leave us?" He barely got the words out.

"I don't really know." She admitted. "I'm still trying to figure that out."

"Friends then?" He tried.

The corners of her mouth twitched. "I guess that sounds reasonable."

He leaned back into the seat. How could a simple sentence make him feel so… relaxed? Content? Was that it? Maybe even a little happy? It was hard to tell. He could still hear the anxiety in the back of his mind spouting off random attacks, but those thoughts were easier to ignore at least for right now.

It was weird to give the credit to some supernatural bond. Had the imprint bond really warped his mind to like anything about Tessa, or was it Tessa herself that calmed him? Again, he couldn't be sure, and he wondered if any of it any mattered if it lead to the same effect.

"As a friend then, can I ask something?" The words were out of his mouth surprising him. Was he pushing it too far? He tried to read her face for signs of annoyance or caution.

"Go for it." She ate another bite of her food.

"Please be careful around me. I don't know how you stopped me tonight, but I could really hurt you, Tessa. If I did, I couldn't live with myself."

At first, she snorted, but then she must have seen how serious he looked.

"I'm sure you won't hurt me," She said.

He immediately shook his head. "Tessa, trust me. There really is a reason I stay away from most people."

"Okay, Jonathan." She wasn't taking him seriously. He could see a light glint of humor in her eyes when she said it.

The last thing he wanted to do was bring up his mom. It wasn't an easy topic to think about most days, much less talk about. He didn't want to prove his point to Tessa by going there, even if it would catch her attention. She might trivialize the event, or worse, she might grow afraid of him.

He settled with her response and nodded.

By the time they had finished the breakfast plates, Tessa was leaning on her hand, eyes starting to droop.

"Want a ride home?" She yawned as they reached her car.

"Nah. I could probably run home faster."

She rolled her eyes. "Come on. At least let me give you a ride back to La Push."

It was easier getting into the car with her this time.

The night was finally getting to them. Neither had much energy to keep up the conversation, though Tessa stayed alert to the road. The lights from Forks faded into the background as they wound through the roads back to La Push.

The silence wasn't weird though. It felt comfortable with her. He could almost fall asleep if he wasn't careful.

And then they were back in front of his house.

"Goodnight, Tessa." He stepped down out of the car.

"Hey." She threw a smug smile at him. "You managed to eat in a restaurant without an incident."

"Well, guess I'm ready to move back to Seattle now." He doubted that sounded as nonchalant as he intended it to.

"I mean, I've got a car." Tessa shrugged. "And a bunch of money now that I'm not going to New York so if you need a ride..."

They both smiled through their pains, not quite succeeding.

"Goodnight, Jonathan. I'll see you later."