He had promised never to leave her. He had promised and he would keep that promise. He had a choice, of course, but it wasn't really one he could make. Not and keep his sanity.
So he stayed in the stillness, hearing her heart beat softly beside him. Its thrumming sound regular, even now.
"You all right?" she asked, her voice dry with thirst. "Anything broken?"
He winced and stroked her hand with his forefinger. He could trust that to move as requested and not injure her further. "You?" He managed, somehow, to keep his voice steady for her.
"I don't hurt anywhere that I can feel," she admitted. "Just so tired." Then, "Why's it so dark, Jacob?"
He shrugged. He could; she couldn't see. He had been her eyes for so long now, that it didn't seem strange that she relied on him so heavily. "It's nighttime, Bells. They'll be here as soon as we're missed, I'm certain. Someone will be here."
Her breath came out softly, a resigned sound. "You'll stay with me, right?"
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"I love you." He heard her the smile in her declaration but couldn't see it. The metal was crushed right between the two of them. He could smell blood – lots of blood. Her blood. He had always been able to smell blood; he didn't know why. Billy thought he should go into medicine...
That wasn't going to happen, now. "Love you, too, honey."
"So tired," she whispered. "Wake me when they get here, 'kay?"
"Sure, sure. Get some sleep."
He swallowed the pain down, pressed it further into himself. Yes, he was in pain. His legs were pierced with shards of metal and glass. What the hell had hit them? He thought it was a big rig, coming around that nasty turn on the slick mountain road. Jake swore under his breath, determined not to wake Bella. Maybe...
Tears slid from under his eyelids but he didn't blink them away. He couldn't. Not enough room to move his hands to wipe them off, either. Pain... He hurt beyond words. His body. His heart.
Her breath caught a beat too long and Jake's eyes opened in hope and terror. Terror that she was dying. So many years and he'd kept her alive. Kept her from walking into traffic when they were kids, from touching something dangerous when they were older. He had taught her how to dance for their first homecoming...
Hope. Hope that she, at least, could escape without more fear.
Pain. Pain. Pain. Throbbing thickly from his waist down, yet still piercing his brain. Pain.
She breathed in. Breathed out. Shallow rasps of breath as he listened.
"Her name's Isabella," his mother whispered. "She's blind, Jake, but she's sharp. No jokes."
"No jokes," he had breathed, gazing with patent adoration at the girl in front of him.
"You're Jacob?" the girl asked, her voice high and bright like sunshine through the clouds. He grinned and put his hand out as he had learned men did. He was only seven, but he did his best.
She stood, a question between her brows. "Well? Are you?"
"Uh, yeah!" he blurted, reaching for her hand since she couldn't see his. "And you're Isabella."
She giggled. "Isn't Isabella a stupid name? I like Izzie!"
Just to hear that giggle again, Jake countered with, "Well, I like Bella!"
She was still holding his hand. "Fine, you can call me Bella. I like how it sounds. Can I touch you? To see what you look like?"
Uncomfortable and wondering if girls had cooties, like Quil and Embry said, he still moved and stood right in front of her. "I thought you couldn't see," he muttered while his folks talked with her dad on the Swans' porch.
"I can't see much, but I can tell if it's light or dark," she explained, bringing her hands up to the top of his head. "Hold still, 'kay? I don't wanna poke your eye out."
He took a deep breath and held it while she moved her hands from the top of his head, down the sides of his face. Her cool fingers brushed his ears and traced his jaw and feathered out over his cheeks, forehead, nose and mouth. The she held his shoulders with her hands. "You're about as tall as me!" she declared. "And you have a big mouth!"
Laughter erupted from his dad, who wasn't yet in a wheelchair but would be in a few years. "He does that, Isabella. He does, that."
"It's Bella!" Jake protested on behalf of his new friend. "She said so."
"C'mon, Jake. Take me down the street and tell me what you see."
"Okay. Hold on to me!" It was instinctive, asking her to do that.
She grinned at him, her eyes vacant but her smile bright. "I will. But don't leave me alone, okay? I mean, if someone comes and you want to go away, that's okay. But don't leave me out there."
He frowned because he heard fear in her voice and that scared him. "I won't leave you. I promise."
And just like that, he became her eyes in a world where there was only light and dark.
Sirens. He could hear sirens.
"Bells?" he whispered, not wanting to wake her if she had escaped into unconsciousness. He'd follow if he could. "You awake?"
There was no answer. Just a slow intake of breath. He couldn't hear her heart anymore. Was her finger cooler against his own? That small strip of her body that he could touch in the drizzle on the side of the mountain?
Fear spiked again, rushing pain and more pain through his body. Just to make sure his mind knew that he was supremely injured. He ground his jaw shut, closed his eyes and howled in his head.
It was dark. He was surrounded by metal, but he could feel cool water dripping on his open wounds. Thirsty. He was so thirsty...
"Thirsty," she murmured. It was almost a whisper of a dream, because he didn't know how her voice carried through the metal and under it to his ear.
He never knew what torture meant, really, until just now. When water was around them and they couldn't take it in their mouths. His lips had to be as dry as hers. Hers were probably worse. She hadn't moved and said she was in no pain, after her initial shriek.
"It's like liquid light, Bells," he murmured over her head as they stood before the minister. "But cool, so you can touch it."
She sighed happily and leaned into him – a departure from tradition, but no one would gainsay the bride. "You have the best words."
Soon, they were married and Bella held up one hand to shield her eyes from the raining birdseed. Her other was clasped in his own. He led her everywhere when they were together. No other was granted that right. She would allow others to guide her, but only with her hand on their arm. Only he was allowed to tug her along. It was a privilege, he understood.
He never led her astray.
"Come on," he whispered above her head as they got away from their family and friends. "I've got a surprise for you."
She had never been sailing and had always wanted to go. They spent their honeymoon on a small boat he had been able to rent from one of the merchants in town. Just the two of them. He insisted she wear a lifejacket if she stepped one foot out of their quarters below the deck, but she didn't mind.
"It's amazing, being out here," she half-shouted in laughter as she held tightly to the rail near the prow. "I love it, Jacob! And I love you!"
He enveloped her with his body. "I love you, too, honey."
Weeping, he turned his head as the flashing lights stopped. His gasping sobs pushed themselves out. He didn't care anymore if he made any noise.
She had awakened, her breath catching in short, choppy, suctioned moments. "Jake! Jake!" Panic had jolted through him, sending more pain-filled adrenaline to every nerve ending. "Where are you? I can't feel you!"
"I'm here, Bella. Honey, I promised. I'm right here." He flexed his forefinger to brush the back of her hand. "Feel me, sweetheart. I'm right here."
"Where! I can't feel you, Jake!" And then, she had started sobbing and he smelled another pulse of blood into the crushed automobile.
A sharp inhale seemed to split his ears. It was followed by one harsh breath and then – nothing.
"Bella? Bella! Bells, honey!"
He tapped her hand with his finger, as hard as he could. Called and called and listened as the sirens drew closer.
Too late. They were too late.
His grief hurt far worse than the metal that pinned him to the seat behind the steering wheel.
"Sir! Hey, are you awake in there! Sir?" A fist banged abruptly against the glass.
Before he could properly adjust himself to his rescue, he was being pulled out, the shafts of car that pierced his flesh still intact. "No!" he shouted – weakly, but still. "No! I promised not to leave her!"
His heart raced, his blood spilled from him, his breath caught as he was hefted with great care from the car. He struggled though, as they moved gingerly around the rear bumper. Ignoring the white-hot agony that blew threw his body as if he were Swiss cheese, he fought the helping hands. "No! I promised!"
She was being lifted out too, but not so gingerly. To a stretcher where her face was covered almost immediately.
Jake screamed and bolted upright, falling entirely off the wheeled stretcher where he had been unwillingly placed. "No! I promised! No–!"
Pain again. A different pain, in his chest, in his head, exploding for a brief, shattering moment.
And then, he saw her and the rest of the world melted away.
Ignoring the cooling bodies and the ruined metal and falling rain, she approached him with her hands outstretched. "Jacob! You're here! I was so worried!"
"I promised," he told her, a lightness suffusing his whole body. Pain wasn't even a memory as he approached her on the mountain's side. "Here I am."
"You said you'd never leave me."
Shocked but still unbearably happy, he smiled and touched her hair. It felt amazing. "You left me first," he chided cheerfully.
Holding hands, they left the scene behind them. She grinned up at him as they entered a brightly-lit door. "I've waited my whole life to see you, you know."
"So have I, honey. I love you."