I Still Choose You
Paul wasn't sure how long he had been running when he came to a stop, panting heavily. He knew that he should keep going. He wasn't far enough away, and the others would catch up to him quickly if he didn't keep moving.
The rain was still coming down strong, which would hopefully mask his scent enough that he could get a decent head start. He started running again, his wolf overjoyed to finally be let out after so long. Paul knew he would need a new plan. And fast. If the others caught up to him, there was no way they would let him out of their sight. Or worse, Sam would order him not to go through with it. And he wouldn't be able to fight it.
He didn't reply when he heard Jared's voice in his head, still running.
We can talk about this!
Onward he pushed, ignoring the chorus in his head. He then slid to a sudden stop as Jared and Sam leaped out from the trees in front of him. Jared was whining while Sam remained stoic, staring him down.
Please, don't do this, Jared pleaded.
It's my life, Paul snarled in return, hearing the rest of the pack now surrounding him.
Great. Now he would have to fight his way out.
We know it's been hard since Rachel-
YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING! Paul roared, cutting Jared off. YOU DON'T KNOW SHIT!
I know that you would be hurting a lot more people if you do this, Jared returned. Me. The rest of the pack. Briony.
JUST SHUT UP!
Paul bared his teeth at his best friend, already getting ready to launch onto him.
Just… let me go. Let me put myself out of my misery, he begged. I can't keep living like this! Without her! I just want to be with Rachel!
She wouldn't want you to do this, Jared shot back.
Paul had flashes of Rachel smiling at him. Holding his face in her hands. Telling him to have more faith in himself. He shook his head, banishing them.
How the hell would you know what she would want? She was my mate! My imprint! I have nothing without her, Paul growled.
We both know that's not true! Jared shouted back. Come on, just… talk to us. We can help you!
No one can help me! Paul shouted, starting to lose some of his fight as he whined. Please… just let me go…
Neither wolf in front of him moved, but Paul knew that they wouldn't. Not until he made his first move. But he also knew that neither would let him go quietly.
We can't do that, Paul, Sam said sternly. We're a pack. Family. Family always takes care of its own.
But don't you see how much pain I'm in? Paul countered. I can't… I can't do this anymore…
He whined, pleading with his eyes for them to let him go. To let him do this. To finally end the pain that hadn't left since Rachel died.
Paul howled as the image of her broken body lying on the slab in the morgue filled his mind. Then her funeral. Seeing the coffin covered in flowers being lowered into the ground.
A deep pain entered his chest as he felt it crumble and open into a gaping hole. There was nothing that could fix it. All Paul wanted was for the pain to stop. And this was the only way he knew to do that.
Let me go...
Paul sat on the beach, his arms wrapped around Rachel as they watched the sun set over the ocean. He sighed, a deep contentment coming over him.
"I wish we could stay like this forever," he said after kissing the side of her head. Rachel chuckled, glancing up at him.
"And miss out on all the excitement?" she asked, her eyes twinkling. Paul just snorted in reply. "I'm serious, Paul. There's a whole world out there for us to discover… together."
For a moment, his smile fell. He had always known that Rachel never wanted to stay in La Push. She was only staying now because they had imprinted, and Paul still had to finish high school. But already she had been talking about the two of them leaving. Him going to university.
"Hey, now. What did I say?" she said. Paul looked down at her. "You'll get it under control. By the time you graduate, it'll be okay."
"Are you sure? I got into a fight with Quil the other day," he replied, still frowning.
"Yea, because he was baiting you. You just need to learn how to hold back," she said.
Paul tightened his hold on her.
"I do feel calmer with you around," he said. Rachel laughed loudly.
"Pretty sure my dad and brother would have something to say about me having a calming effect," she said, rolling her eyes.
"But you do," Paul said seriously, looking down at her. "At least on me."
"Yea, but one of these days, you'll figure that out all on your own," she stated. It was Paul's turn to laugh loudly. "Seriously, Paul."
He stared down at her a few moments, still not quite believing that he had imprinted on her. Rachel Black. Jacob's older sister. He had always thought she was smart and pretty. But being four years older, he had felt he never had a chance with someone like her. And here they were. Sitting on the beach, wrapped up in each other's arms.
"Trust me, life is going to be amazing. You'll love Seattle," she said, settling into his arms. "And really… we can do anything. You can do anything."
Paul started to smile, her enthusiasm filling him. Rachel was right. There was an entire world out there that they could conquer. Together. He couldn't wait to get started.
Paul shook his head, not sure why that memory had come to his mind. But the more he thought about it, the more his mind began to settle. Maybe what Jared was saying was right. But just as quickly, he pushed it aside. He needed to stay focused if he were going to get away from the pack.
Guys! I can't find her!
Paul turned his head, seeing Embry dash into the clearing and irritated with the interruption. What was he talking about? Couldn't find who?
Briony's not at the house but her car is still there, Embry continued. The rain is too strong… I lost her scent…
Immediately, Paul's heart seized in panic. Briony had followed him into the forest. In the rain. She didn't know it like they did and would easily get lost. Or worse. She would get hurt. There were tons of gullies and ridges throughout the woods. All it would take was one misstep.
In a second, his mind was filled with the image of Briony lying in some gully, bleeding. In pain. The life slowly leaving her eyes as she called for help that wouldn't come in time. She didn't deserve that.
Paul decided to put his own crisis aside for the moment. He needed to find Briony. Make sure she was safe. If she got hurt out here because of him, that was something Paul couldn't live with. Not that he intended to live that much longer.
He turned back to Sam and Jared, knowing they had already seen his thoughts.
We'll find Briony… and then we'll deal with this, Sam ordered.
Paul bobbed his head in acknowledgement and then turned back, starting to run in the direction he had come from, hoping to come across her scent. Searching for the familiar vanilla and lavender air that always seemed to surround her.
He only hoped that he wouldn't be too late.
Briony wasn't completely sure how she had ended up there, but she came to an opening in the trees and looked down, finding the beach. At least she now had an idea of where she was.
But she still hadn't found Paul and could barely speak after shouting his name for so long. She stumbled her way down a hill and walked to the beach, plopping down on the wet sand as the tears began pouring down her cheeks.
She had failed him. She couldn't find Paul. Just like she had failed Brandon.
Staring at the ocean, Briony felt her emotions welling up in her until finally she let out a scream, finding it was the only way to get out what she was feeling. Sobbing, she then dropped her face into her hands as pain overwhelmed her and squeezed her heart like a vice.
It was that day all over again.
In her mind, she saw Brandon lying lifeless on his bed, knowing he was gone, and she hadn't been there. Once again, Briony was too late. She was always too late. Why was she always too late? Was she destined to continue fucking up for the ones that she cared about?
Briony leaned her head on Brandon's shoulder as they lay on the couch watching a movie. They had been holed up in the house for a few days now, avoiding everyone since they got the news. She had to admit that Brandon was taking it a lot better than she was. When the doctor told them that they had exhausted all the treatment options and the tumors were still growing, she wanted to shout and scream. Break something. But somehow, she had kept it together, knowing she needed to be calm and supportive for him.
"It's not fair," Brandon finally said, breaking the near silence in the room.
Briony sat up suddenly, her eyes wide as she looked over at him. His face was dark as his eyes remained on the TV. She reached over and took his hand, squeezing.
"Fuck, I'm 27. This… This isn't fair," he said, angry tears starting down his cheeks.
Briony was stunned into silence. This whole time, he had been strong. Optimistic. Even when the doctor spoke with them, he had smiled and thanked him for everything he had done to help in his treatment. The last couple days while he had been a bit more withdrawn than usual, it was strange to see him angry. Or maybe it shouldn't have been. He had, essentially, been given a death sentence at 27. Just when his career had been really building momentum.
But Briony didn't know what to do or say to him, so instead squeezed his hand again as her own eyes filled with tears.
Brandon sat up and leaned over, dropping his face in his hands after letting go of hers. Briony watched him for a few moments, feeling completely useless, before leaning over and wrapping her arms arounds him.
"I'm here," she said softly. "I'm not going anywhere… I stay at your side for everything…"
Brandon didn't say or move at first. But then suddenly Briony felt his hand on her arm.
"I promise… you're not going through this alone," she murmured.
"I know… I'm sorry. I shouldn't take this out on you," he replied, his voice a bit strangled as he fought to keep control of his tears.
"It's okay to be angry, you know," Briony said. "To want to yell and scream. It's okay. I know I'm angry… I want more time…"
"Me too, Bri… me too…"
Briony sat up as he turned to her, reaching out to caress her cheek.
"I don't know what I'd do without you," he murmured.
"Well, you never have to find out…"
Briony stared at the ocean a bit longer as angry tears coursed down her cheeks. She had promised him that she would be at his side for everything. Everything. And then in the end, she hadn't been there when he needed her the most. She had stepped away to take a nap.
A fucking nap.
And now, when she needed to find Paul and let him know that he wasn't alone in this, she couldn't fucking find him. Unable to make her way through the woods after him. Yet again, she had failed to be there when she was needed the most.
"WHY!?" she shouted up at the sky, finally letting out all the anger and hurt pent up inside her. "WHY IS IT LIKE THIS!?"
Sobs continued to wrack her body as she shouted and yelled every obscenity that she knew at the gray sky, not caring that it was still raining, and she was wet, cold and muddy. If anyone came across her, they would probably think she was a lunatic. But Briony didn't care.
She needed to let this out. They could lock her up if they wanted, but she needed a release.
Finally, Briony stopped, finding that she had nothing left in her as she stared dully at the water. Who was she kidding? She thought perhaps she could help Paul. And for a time, she thought it was working. Now she knew differently.
She had screwed up by kissing him back.
And now this.
A cold dread filled her as she watched the waves crashing onto the beach, a bleak realization falling over her. If she couldn't help Paul, how could she ever expect to fix herself? A dull emptiness filled her chest. This was just how it was going to be from here on out. Forget the fact that she had started feeling better. That she thought she had been helping Paul get better. Despite all that, he was still intending to leave all of this behind. For a small moment, Briony wondered if he might be onto something. But then she dismissed the idea. She couldn't do that to her friends and family. Not so soon after Brandon.
Briony whipped her head over, almost not believing her ears or her eyes as she saw Paul jogging up to her, now dressed in a pair of jean shorts. Pushing aside the musing at his wardrobe change, she pushed up to her feet and started striding towards him, her emotions immediately picking up again. She was part relieved, part angry and wasn't sure which to go with first.
"What the hell, Paul!" she shouted, shoving him as she reached him. Guess anger won.
He barely moved as he stared down at her. Christ, what was with him and his fucking internal furnace? Briony was shivering and he looked as though he barely felt the cold rain pouring down on him. It only added to her frustration.
"What the hell are you thinking?!" she shouted, surprised she still had a voice.
"I was thinking that I can't deal with this pain anymore," he said, losing his own fight with his emotions. Rather than remain expressionless, his face started to crumple slightly. "But what were you thinking? Running out into the forest in a rainstorm?! You could have gotten hurt or killed!"
"Do not turn this on me. If you're hurting, then you should have talked to me! Or… someone!" she shouted back, waving her arms wildly. "I'm trying to help you!"
"I didn't ask you to fix me, Briony!" Paul shouted. "You can't! No one can!"
Briony stared at him, feeling as though he slapped her in the face even though she had just been thinking the same thing. However, the desire to keep trying, to not give up welled up in her. She couldn't give up yet. Paul was still alive. There was still a chance she could get through to him. That she could make sure he stayed.
"Why won't you at least let me try!" she shouted. "Or anyone? I know Jared and Embry - all the others - they've been trying, but you won't let any of us in!"
Paul groaned and turned away from her, running his fingers through his wet hair.
"I told you… you can't understand," he retorted. "Rachel… she was my everything! My soulmate!"
"And you think Brandon wasn't mine?" Briony snapped. Surely, he wasn't turning this into a battle of the soulmates.
Why couldn't he understand? They were the same. She knew what he was feeling. What that pain was like. She was the only one who probably could. Paul turned back to her, his expression dark.
"It's not the same-"
"IT'S THE SAME FUCKING THING!" Briony shouted. "You think you have nothing! That she was your everything and now that she's gone there's no one that can replace her and there's nothing left to live for! THAT'S HOW I FEEL! THAT'S WHY I SPENT MONTHS UNABLE TO GET OUT OF BED! I KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE!"
Paul didn't reply as he stared at her in shock, clearly not expecting her to rail into him. That was fine to Briony. She was going to show him just how unwilling she was to let him go.
"Brandon was… is… he was my partner! And no one… I felt that no one understood me like him! And then… he was gone, and I didn't know what to do with myself! But I knew that I couldn't give up! He wouldn't want me to!" she shouted. "And I know that Rachel wouldn't want you to give up either! Not like this..."
Still Paul didn't reply. Briony growled in frustration and charged up to him, starting to punch his chest.
"You're a fucking idiot if you think you have nothing!" she shouted. "You have so much life left to live, Paul Lahote!"
Paul didn't move, just let her keep shouting at him as she hit him over and over again.
"And don't for one goddamn second think that no one would care if you were gone! I care!" she continued. "I CAN'T LOSE YOU, TOO!"
Paul then reached out and grabbed her wrists, holding them firmly as she struggled to get free. Without speaking a word, he pulled her to his chest, wrapping his arms around her as Briony slowly stopped struggling and held onto him tightly. Slowly, she felt the warmth from his body start to spread to her.
"I can't lose someone else," she sobbed. "Please… don't make me go through this again..."
Neither spoke for a time as Paul held her, allowing Briony to sob. After she had quieted down a bit, she looked up at him, finding his expression had softened, though the sheer depth of the pain in his eyes made her gasp. She still wasn't about to give up, though.
"Please," she begged.
Paul swallowed and pulled her close again.
"Come on… I'll take you home," he said, his voice cracking.
"And then we'll talk," he continued, cutting her off.
Briony stepped back from him, shocked as she met his eyes again. She knew he was telling the truth.
"O… Okay," she said.
Paul nodded and let go of her, starting to walk down the beach towards her house. Neither said a word as Briony caught up to him and they made their way down the beach.
Without looking at him, Briony reached down and took his hand, holding onto it tightly, worried if she let go, he might disappear or change his mind and run off. They had just determined there was no way she could keep up with him.
Much to her happiness, Paul didn't pull away. Only tightened his grip. And for a moment, Briony began to hope.