Chapter 17: The Fall

Nature buzzed. Exiting the subway, Jack and I sat on a rickety bus stop bench by the street. I tried to ignore the gang of teenagers in the subway watching us curiously through the fast food window. I took nervous breaths, keeping my eyes away from Jack.

"Are you truly considering it?" Jack asked softly. I bit my lip and turned to him. He looked understanding, but resigned. His words asked if I was considering it, considering leaving his family to live with my real family, but his eyes asked if I had made a decision yet. I couldn't answer both questions the same way. I nodded to him and he looked down.

"I see," he said.

A nice breeze blew past us, rustling the leaves in the trees. I nudged a small space into the gravel below the bench awkwardly as time passed us. Trying to draw a bunny with the tip of my converse one star toe. The poor shoes were dirty already considering Sandstone's lack of paving.

I considering carrying on some conversation.

What do you think of the humidity?

No, that's a stupid question.

So, school. Maybe you can help me find my first class…

Too suggestive.

Can you think of any interesting questions for my workbook for Willow? I'm already half-way thr-

"You're beautiful," Jack stated. I turned to him surprised, my face suddenly burning under the gentle sunlight. "Sorry," he added, "You just looked like you were concentrating so hard. I just…" He looked down, a slight tinge of pink becoming visible on his cheek. I feared the thumping in my chest was audible. I attempted changing the embarrassing topic, my mind coming up with the first thing I could think of.

"You had a very specific request for your sandwich in there," I stated before turning away. I allowed my hair to block my face from his view.

"Ah, yes." He replied, his voice a little more confident than before. "The details were important." I thought back to his order.

"You must have your tomato toasted," I stated, turning to him again, a grin across my face. He smiled back, his eyes shining.

"And salted," he added.

"Before being toasted. Heaven forbid they salt it after," I crossed my legs and laughed, leaning into the bench comfortably. Jack gave me a faux offended expression.

"It's important, really! The salt causes the tomato to dehydrate sooner, and the toasting expedites the process," he explained passionately.

"Oh really?" I asked with a grin, the wind blew a few strands of hair in my face. I draped them behind my ear. "Did you learn that from your stellar education?" I asked cockily.

"Yup," he replied and leaned closer to me, "Cooking 101." He smiled, his gorgeous chocolate brown eyes suddenly closer to mine. His perfect face waiting as he looked back at me curiously. I tried to catch my breath. I blinked twice, roping in my thoughts. Cooking 101. I giggled when I realized what he'd said.

"Took me long enough," I said half-heartedly. He sat back and laughed. He was blushing again. I was certain so was I.

I turned a curious eye back at the subway. The others were talking amongst themselves, taking a few moments to notice me watching them. Willow waved. I waved back.

"Um, Ara." Jack said. I glanced his way. His hand was rubbing the back of his neck slowly. He looked hesitant and unsure.

"Jack?" I asked. A certain warmness settled in the pit of my stomach and slowly spread to the rest of my body. It was difficult to place. Some cross between excitement, hope and fear. It felt as though for a moment, the wind was pushing me towards him. I moved with it, leaning forward.

Jack eyed me nervously. "I know you would probably benefit from the space…" he trailed off. He looked to the gravel at our feet, the edge where the asphalt of the street met the dirt. "Especially from me," he added. His lips were parted, revealing his teeth clenched together for a moment. He suddenly stood from the bench, his back facing me.

I instinctively stood too. Jack seemed to pull something from his pocket. When he turned around, I could feel the same electric torrent of emotions flood me again. The wind blew from behind me, fluttering my hair into my face.

"I thought I'd give you a going away present," he said before presenting me with a little cardboard box with a cartoon santa on the front. My eyes widened.

I took the box in my hand and smiled at the silly Christmas design.

"There were leftover boxes in the car. It used to have pretzels in it," he said awkwardly. I let out a soft laugh and opened one side. Sliding the contents into one hand, there was suddenly a silver chain in my palm. I handed him back the pretzel box to better look at the piece of jewelry. I marvled at the little wolf charm that hung from the bracelet's chain.

"Very creative," I gasped in poorly constructed sarcasm. My surprise over the beautiful gift still evident in my voice. "What made you think of a wolf?" I asked rhetorically. I looked back at him and felt my heart just about stop at his smile.

The world around us seemed to disappear, becoming hazy backgrounds to his beautiful face, grin and eyes.

I came to a realization in that moment. At the same time, I finally made an important decision.

There was something so warm and beautiful in those brown eyes. It was something that must have been there since the day he met me. His eyes alone made me feel warm and safe. As he looked at me, I knew there was nothing he saw in that moment than me. I saw love in his eyes.

I realized that this was the person I would spend the rest of my life with. This crazy world of men that turned to wolves, of elders who could erase memories, of rival packs that abducted police officers from thousands of miles away, it was all mine now.

I will never be able to explain what consumed me in that moment, but I leaned forward and held my breath. I placed a small innocent kiss on Jack's cheek. The least of thank yous I could give for his sweet gift. He never asked me to stay at the Willis's. He could tell I wanted space. He knew I didn't want to be with him. And I could tell that already he had fallen deep for me, but chose to gift me of my own free will.

Before I could think anymore on the tenderness of Jack's heart, his hand was on my chin, his face turned and then his lips were on mine. I wanted to pull away before I lost myself but it was too late. I pushed deeper then, my eyes fluttering closed, my heart beat soaring. I was lost. I could feel his hand slip gently in my hair, cradling the back of my neck. His lips fit mine perfectly, like they were meant to be there all along. I gently tugged at the hem of his shirt, pulling him close until I could feel the beating of his heart against my own.

We pulled apart slowly, both flushed, our breaths ragged.

"Jack…" I trailed as I tried to relearn how to breathe, "I'm sorry."

He looked at me dazed, a deep blush stretched across his face. He shook his head.

"Wait," I continued, "I'm sorry mostly because your gift is a waste." I said, holding up the wolf chain. "I'm not going away."

Jack paused, his eyes confused for a moment before realization fell over him. A grin spread across his face akin to a child being given the greatest gift he could imagine.

"You're not going to live with Tim?" He shouted, his hands grabbing my shoulders excitedly before jumping up and down giddy. I laughed, pulled into his jolly mood, and shook my head in confirmation.

"No," I said. Jack laughed and pulled me into a hug. My feet left the ground as Jack spun me around in the air.

I shrieked happily, shouting for him to set me down. The commotion brought the rest of the group outside to us.

"Dude," Downing chuckled as he strolled out of the subway. Jack set me on my feet. "Never seen anyone that excited for their first kiss."

I flushed as my eyes widened. Jack walked over and smacked Downing in the shoulder, his face still obviously joyous.

"Ara has chosen to stay with us," Jack said, sending me a blissful smile.

Suddenly I was tackled into a hug by a hyper red head.

"Yes! You'll stay my sister!" shouted Willow. She released me from the hug. I held up my bracelet for Willow and she instinctively unhooked the clasp and fastened it to my wrist.

"Thank you," I replied. She beamed back to me.

Jack placed a hand on my shoulder and I turned back to him. His beautiful eyes shined back at me.

He was the happiest person I'd ever seen.

I was surrounded by smiles and congratulations and for the first time in my entire life, I truly felt like I had a family. Even though none of them were bonded to me by blood, it felt like something stronger beckoned me to them. Like an invisible binding that perhaps a God had sewn just for me.

I was home.

Hello again! I was really happy to see two new reviews so I got this chapter out as fast as I could. It is a tad shorter than my typical chapter, but it felt like a really good place to break. I will usually try to make my chapters at least 2000 words, but this one barely breaks 1700. I'll make it up on the next chapter should I recieve reviews again. Truly, reviews are the greatest gift a reader can give. So thank you so much. I hope you are enjoying the story so far. I will continue writing it for you.