I Always Will @rubberduckiez
We Can Never Go Back

Disclaimer - For those who have difficulty reading about death, this chapter has flashbacks to both Brandon and Rachel's deaths. So proceed with caution.

~~~

We Can Never Go Back

Paul sat on the couch, staring down at his coffee table covered in letters. He had nearly finished all of them, but for some reason he was struggling with Briony's. He knew that would be the hardest one to complete and it was why he had saved it until last. But he knew that he couldn't go through with his plans until he finished it. And he needed to soon. He couldn't take any more of this.

For a moment, his mind went back a few days. The feeling of Briony in his arms. Her lips on his. Soft, yet demanding. Her hands running up his back. The way she had pressed her body against his.

He then shook his head, pushing the images and sensations from his mind. He shouldn't have kissed her. He shouldn't have allowed it to go as far as it did. It would only hurt her more. Not to mention his own guilt. Paul had imprinted on Rachel. She was his soulmate. Not Briony. There was no one else for him and never would be. He had a moment of weakness, and in that moment, he had hurt the both of them in ways that he could never forgive himself for. Besides, Briony was leaving him anyway.

He leaned over and rubbed his face, then glanced at his phone, seeing yet another missed call from Briony.

Of course, she wanted to talk about it.

But he didn't. Couldn't. How could he talk about this with her when he couldn't tell her so much? He couldn't tell her what he was. About the imprint. Make her understand the bond he had with Rachel and why he knew he had nothing left now that she was gone. He had been wrong to think that maybe Briony would understand. She wasn't part of this world of his and she never could be.

It was a moment of weakness. He wouldn't let it happen again. He needed to take care of this now. He had been distracted the last few weeks, but not anymore. Paul had to go through with this before something else distracted him.

A furious knocking on the front door tore him from his thoughts.

Paul looked up, frowning as he wondered who would be bothering him. Granted, he then had a pretty good idea who it might be and that alone kept him seated a few moments, thinking if he just ignored it, Briony would go away. But then it became clear that she wasn't going to give up and go home quietly. Besides, his truck was in front of the house, so she knew he was there.

Sighing, Paul pushed up from the couch and walked to the front door, deciding he would tell her to go away and then slam the door.

When he opened it, he saw a flushed Briony standing there, a look of shock on her face with her hand in the air as though she had been about to knock again.

"I can't talk about this," he said automatically.

"Tough shit, you're going to," Briony retorted, already pushing past him to get in the house. For a moment, he had a sense of deja vu. Hadn't Rachel done this exact thing a million times before?

He shook his head, trying to stay focused.

"Briony-"

"No, we're going to talk!" she shouted as she barged around him and into the living room.

It was then that Paul remembered the letters. Shit.

"Briony!"

But it was too late. As though some sort of cosmic string was guiding her, she saw the letters and immediately went over, picking one up. Paul groaned as he ran his fingers through his hair, wondering how he was going to get out of this.

He shouldn't have answered the damn door.

"Paul… what is this?" she asked softly.

He turned away, not wanting to see her face. He couldn't respond.

"Were… are you going to…"

He finally looked over at her, seeing her green eyes wide in shock as she stared at him, the letter still in her hand.

"Are you serious about this?" she asked, holding the paper up.

"You wouldn't understand," he started.

"I think I'm the only person who can understand," she replied. "How long have you been planning this?"

He looked away, feeling shame and guilt course through him. Of all the people to find out about his plans, it had to be Briony. Why was it always Briony? How had she somehow managed to sneak past all the walls he spent the last year building around himself?

"I think you should leave," he said, his voice firm.

"Fuck, no. I'm not leaving, Paul," Briony said, her voice rising.

Paul looked back at her, seeing the all too familiar angry spark in her eyes. The look of determination on her face.

"Please, Briony," he begged, already feeling his emotions beginning to swirl and rise in him. "Besides aren't you going back to LA anyway? Why does it matter?"

She stared at him in shock for a few moments.

"No! I… fuck!" she shouted as she started pacing around his living room. "I can't leave you alone! And I'm not going for good! I just need to get some things so I can sell the house."

"I want to be alone!" he shouted back, anger starting to take control of the crazy mess of emotions that were currently battling inside him. Though what she said about coming back stuck with him. She wasn't leaving for good? He pushed that aside. "It's none of your damn business!"

"It is my business, Paul! I care about you," Briony shouted back as she stopped her pacing and scowled at him. "I'm not going to let you do this!"

"It's my life!"

"Yes, and I'm trying to make sure you still have one!" she shouted. "I mean… is this about what happened the other day? The kiss?"

"No… yes… I…" Paul stopped speaking, shaking his head again. Fuck, he couldn't decide what to say.

"Please… don't do this because of me," she said desperately.

"This isn't about you, Briony," he said weakly. "Just… please go…"

She was stomping towards him, invading his personal space. Paul could feel his wolf already growling and snarling inside him, begging to be let out. And this time, he knew he was losing his grip on control.

This was worse than the day he kissed her. At least then he had managed to keep himself in check before he phased. This time he knew that his wolf wasn't going to take no for an answer.

"Seriously, Briony, you should leave!" he shouted, gritting his teeth together as he clenched his hands into fists. "It's not safe!"

"Hell yea, it's not safe! You're thinking about killing yourself!" Briony shouted, not backing down. "Christ! Did you even stop to think about how this would affect everyone else or are you too selfish to look past your own self-pity?!"

Paul closed his eyes, desperately fighting to keep in check. He breathed slowly in and out.

"Briony… you should leave… now," he replied, feeling his heart start to pound in his chest.

"No!" Briony shouted back.

Paul's eyes flew open and he knew that he couldn't fight it anymore. His wolf was going to come out. Now. And he couldn't let Briony stay anywhere near him. Not only could she not know, but she could get seriously hurt. And the last thing Paul wanted to do was to hurt her more than he already had.

Breathing heavily, he turned and started striding towards the back door of the house.

"Fuck no. You are not running away from this!" he heard Briony shout.

He knew that she was going to follow him as he picked up the pace, throwing the back door open and now running across the yard towards the forest. He needed to get far away before he phased.

"Where are you going?!"

He didn't reply as he pulled his shirt off, throwing it aside as the wind picked up. The smell of rain was heavy in the air and from the looks of the sky, it was going to start pouring any second.

"PAUL! GET BACK HERE!"

With a growl, he charged into the trees, running much faster as Briony's shouts grew softer. Finally, he could hold back no longer and leaped forward, his body shifting midair and ripping through his jeans. He landed on four paws and howled before taking off through the forest, running far faster now that he was in his wolf form.

The heavens opened up and the rain began to pour down, though he ignored it as he kept running.

Almost immediately, he could hear the others in his head, all shouting for him. There was no way to keep the secret now. They all knew everything. About his plans. The letters. The kiss with Briony.

Paul?! Where are you going!?

STOP!

Come on, man! We need to talk about this.

"PAUL!"

He ignored all of them as he howled and continued running, not really caring where he was going as long as he got away from everything. A growl filled his throat as he pushed forward, the memories starting to overtake him.

~~~

Paul rushed through the building, still not believing it. He had thrown his phone against the wall mid-call, shattering it to the point he was sure it didn't work anymore. But it wasn't as though it mattered. He didn't want to take anyone's calls anymore.

He'd never hear her voice again.

Paul came to a stop in a hallway, seeing Jacob standing next to his father, both of them with morose looks on their faces. Billy looked up, meeting his eyes as he sighed, and pain filled his expression.

"Paul…" he started.

"Where is she?" Paul demanded.

"Seriously, Paul… you don't…"

"I NEED TO SEE HER!" Paul roared, but both Blacks didn't react. Didn't even flinch. He was breathing heavily as he struggled to keep himself in check.

Paul ran his fingers through his hair, feeling hot tears fill his eyes as he looked away.

"I just… I can't believe it," he said, this time a bit more softly.

"She would want you to remember her how she was," Billy said gently.

Paul looked back over at him as Jacob reached down and gripped his shoulder. The younger man then looked over and met his eyes. He gave a short nod and looked towards the double doors. Taking a deep breath, Paul walked over. He paused for a moment before pushing them open.

The room was sterile and smelled like a hospital. But it wasn't a hospital. That's where they took people who could be saved. This is where people came when they were dead.

Paul's eyes fell on the line of metal slabs in front of him, the one closest occupied by a figure covered in a white sheet. He took another deep breath and walked over, his footsteps echoing off the walls. He could feel his heart start to pound stronger with each step that brought him closer. Once he stood next to the table, he stared down at it, wondering if perhaps he was crazy. Why did he want to see this?

But then again, he knew that he needed to.

Slowly, Paul reached down and grabbed the sheet, pulling it down. His breath hitched as he dropped the sheet and looked away, his hand coming to his mouth before he rubbed his face, tears streaming down his cheeks.

It was true.

A sound somewhere in between a sob and a groan filled the room. Paul then looked back down at the figure.

Rachel's normally perfect skin was littered in cuts. Blood matted her long, luscious hair. Her eyes were closed as was her mouth, though a large cut ran through her lips.

It was as if a deep chasm had opened up in his chest where his heart had been. He couldn't breathe and Paul knew he needed to get out of the room before he lost control, but he couldn't make himself move. Falling over slightly, he gripped the edge of the slab, deep, heart-wrenching sobs leaving his body. He then started shouting, incoherent words tumbling out of his lips. His eyes were locked on Rachel's body.

Suddenly, there were strong arms around him, pulling him back.

"NO! NO! I WANT TO STAY!" he shouted, his eyes still fixed on Rachel.

"Come on, we need to leave," he heard Jacob say as he pulled him into a hold, still yanking him back.

"NO!"

Paul swiveled and shoved Jacob away, watching as he flew into the door. Still breathing heavily, he turned back to Rachel.

"Paul…"

Jacob was back on him, pulling him away. Paul struggled a bit longer before he stopped, dropping to the ground as he clung to Jacob and wailed. He knew he was making a scene, that his face was likely full of snot and tears. But he didn't care.

Rachel was gone. The love of his life was gone. And he hadn't been there to protect her. Save her.

"There was nothing you could do," Jacob said dully after Paul had finally calmed down, though he was still sniffling. "There was nothing any of us could have done…"

"I should have been there…"

"Stop, Paul…"

They were silent a bit before Paul stood and wiped his face. He looked at Rachel one more time before turning and walking out of the room, feeling his wolf starting to come to the surface.

He needed to get out of there and fast.

~~~

Briony slid to a stop as she heard the howl. She had just run past the treeline and wasn't far from the house, but something about that howl struck her straight in the heart. Part of her was afraid, but she couldn't help but think that the animal that had made that sound was in deep pain.

As she stood there, the rain started pouring down. For a moment, she looked back over her shoulder, thinking she should go back and call the others. Tell them what she had found. Jared, Embry, and everyone else knew these woods better than her. They could go out and find Paul. Hopefully before he hurt himself.

She then looked back into the woods and knew that she couldn't stop. She needed to find Paul. If anyone understood what he was going through - the pain he was feeling - she did. She understood that she was the one who had to talk him out of this. While she had never gotten to the point of wanting to take her own life, she had often felt that she couldn't move forward without Brandon. That her life had no purpose.

And that was obviously what Paul was feeling right now.

She started walking again, moving as quickly as she could through the heavily wooded area as she fast became soaked in the downpour.

"PAUL!" she shouted, hoping he could hear here. That he would stop.

That she wouldn't be too late.

"We can talk about this!" she shouted desperately.

She stopped as she heard another howl and then a few more. She frantically looked around the forest, wondering how many wolves were out there. Of course, she knew that they lived around here, but she had never seen one herself.

But then determination filled her again as she started walking.

"PAUL!"

Onward she kept going, not sure if she was moving in the right direction. Paul ran far faster than she did and had disappeared into the trees before she had even made it out of the house. She kept shouting out his name, making herself hoarse. But still she shouted and yelled. Moving through the trees, though she often slid in the mud and nearly fell several times.

But she wasn't going to stop. Not until she found him and made sure he knew that he wasn't alone. That he still had her.

More than that, Briony knew that she couldn't lose someone else. She couldn't lose Paul.

~~~

Briony sat in the chair, staring at the casket covered in flowers in front of her. She had cried so much in the days after Brandon died that she was sure there were no more tears left. And then this morning she nearly couldn't stop them again. But now, sitting here in front of their families and friends, she found that she couldn't muster even a tear. A cold numbness filled her as she stared at the flowers, not even registering what the pastor was saying.

But just like that, it was over.

She knew that she was supposed to do something. Say something. People were coming up to her, murmuring their condolences. Briony said the right words, though as soon as she said them, she couldn't remember just what it was that she said.

Her father stepped over, awkwardly hugging her. He started to open his mouth, but then stopped and looked away. Next Brandon's parents came up to her, enveloping her in warm hugs.

"Oh, Briony, sweetie," his mother whispered in her ear. "You know you're always welcome at ours."

She nodded, her eyes drifting back over to the casket.

"You ready to get back, kiddo?" his father then said. Briony looked at him.

"If it's alright, I… I need a minute," she said. They both nodded, giving her watery smiles before walking away.

Briony walked up to the casket, placing her hand on the smooth surface. She didn't want to believe that he was in there. But he was.

"Oh god, Bran," she whispered.

Closing her eyes, she could feel the tears start to well up again.

"What am I supposed to do?" she asked.

Live…

She opened her eyes, staring down at the casket.

"Kind of hard to do that right now," she murmured.

She stood there for what felt like hours, the pain starting to emerge. It was a small prick in her chest and then it quickly spread, enveloping her. Briony's shoulders began to shake as she brought her hand to her mouth, attempting to hold her sobs in.

"I can't do this, Bran… I can't…"

Yes, you can…

"Please don't make me do this alone…"

You have to. Keep going, Bri… For me… Don't give up…

~~~

Briony continued on through the forest, a determined glare on her face.

"If I can do this… he can," she murmured to herself. "I can't lose Paul… Can't lose him…"

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