Tooth and Claw

The cost of a mistake

Julia sat cross legged on the sofa in Jake’s apartment, engrossed in a book. It was early evening and she hadn’t heard from him all day. But then, she hadn’t heard from any of the others all day. They hadn’t been seeing all that much of each other since…

Regardless, she was focussed on the book in her lap just now, occasionally making notes on a pad. Working out finance and logistics for running the community centre was proving challenging, but she had plenty of time to read up on how to organise these things and numerous resources to call on if she needed help. Plus, it gave her something to focus on that wasn’t her packmate clinging to life in a ritual circle. They had arranged to cover him in shifts so that one of them was always there, able to call for the pack if something changed. She’d head over later to do the early morning shift.

The elevator doors dinged back in the hallway. It took a moment for her to register the footsteps and she looked up, a smile growing on her face as he came into the room.

“Hey. Did you bring the books I asked for from the library?”

He came into the living area with a purpose that surprised her. The books were dropped on the coffee table and before she had a chance to say thanks he had grabbed her and crushed her mouth against his. The book tumbled from her lap, pen hanging loosely in her grasp for a second as she stayed still in surprise. Then she dropped that as well as she instinctively twined her arms around his neck.

He pulled away, hand cupping her face as his other arm looped around her waist and pulled her towards him up off the sofa. She stumbled, her legs uncrossing as she tried to support herself against the sudden movement and he lifted her weight up. There was something in his eyes that she couldn’t describe, that almost made her worried. She was used to sudden affection from him, but there was something about his kiss that had seemed almost… desperate, afraid.

“What’s wrong? Are you-” She was cut off as he kissed her again.

It was difficult to focus on anything else as his tongue swept her mouth but somehow she managed to regain her senses as he pulled away again to let her find her feet properly, pressing the two of them even closer together.

“Jake, are you OK?” she asked. The worry was clear in her voice as she stared up at him.

“I will be.” His voice was husky and he buried his face in her neck. She tangled her hands in her hair, knees buckling slightly.

“Is it a good idea to-”

He trailed kisses down her neck, biting at that little sweet spot on her collarbone that made her instantly forget what objections she’d had to this. She gave a little whimper and let him drag her through to the other room, pull her top over her head and practically fling her onto the bed.

She lay collapsed across the bed on her stomach, sweat-soaked and breathing hard. She could feel him beside her, although she couldn’t muster the effort to lift her head and turn to look at him. Her legs felt like they were made of water in the best way possible. She closed her eyes with a satisfied exhale.

“Shit…” His voice sounded a little panicked.

Julia made a noise somewhere between a groan and a muffled sigh of contentment.

“Shit. Shit, shit, shit. What was I thinking?”

“Nnnnn…” She lifted her head with some effort, rolling over onto her side so she could see him. He was lying on his back staring up at the ceiling, one hand on his forehead and the other’s fingers beating a tattoo on his stomach. He seemed to be buzzing with a strange nervous energy, as if he was going to suddenly start pacing the room.

Right on cue he sat up, hands gripping the edge of the bed and his back to her as he swung his feet onto the floor. She wanted to reach out to him, but she felt drained and limp, the afterglow leaving her useless. The good feelings were fading rapidly however, as she saw how upset he was.

“This was… so fucking stupid. What was I…” He put his head in his hands. “Shit.”

“Jake…” she murmured. “What’s wrong? Why are you…?”

“I’m sorry Jules, I’m sorry.” He turned sharply, shifting on the bed and pulling her towards him. “I shouldn’t have… shit, I shouldn’t have been so reckless. We should… I dunno, wash or something.”

“I think I’d like to just… stay here right now.” She rested her head against him.

“I don’t want you to get pregnant because I was an idiot!”

“We’ll be fine,” Julia mumbled. “Also my legs don’t want to work right now. You were very thorough.”

“You are being way too calm about this!”

“And you’re being weirdly panicky.” She lifted her head to look at him. “You were the one who didn’t use a condom. We’ve had slip-ups before and you’ve never been like this. What’s wrong?”

“I just…” he turned his head away awkwardly, a strange expression on his face. “I just don’t want you to-”

“No. I don’t buy it.” She lifted her hand, powering through the heavy feeling in her arms to pull his face back. “You came in behaving oddly and you said this would make you feel better, but I feel like the only one who had a good time was me. You seem like you can’t decide if you want to run away or not. What’s going on?”

Jake sighed and shook his head, leaning in to kiss her forehead gently. “I’m sorry. I had a bad day. I shouldn’t have… Some work issues that I knew were coming finally happened this morning and that shook me up. It was just one of those situations where I thought I was prepared and then it turned out I wasn’t. It doesn’t happen too often, so you can understand why I’m feeling a bit off.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“I can’t Jules, I’m sorry.” He ran a thumb gently over her cheek. “It’s been stewing all day and I was just in a weird mood when I came in. I saw you there and I wanted you. I got kind of swept up in the moment and… I had a great time, believe me. But I don’t want you to be the one who has to pay for me having a bad day.”

“Well, it’s a bit late now.” She tried to prop herself up and wobbled, her legs still refusing to behave. He caught her, holding her close. “We’ll be fine, we’ve always been fine. I don’t imagine washing would help anyway.”

“It would make me feel better.”

“Well, you can carry me then, because I will fall over if I try to get up. Your weird mood certainly left you with plenty of stamina, I’ll give you that.” She rested her face against his chest again as he laughed ruefully. “Did you get the right books for me? You never even gave me a chance to look.”

“Of course. I always do, don’t I?”

“True, the ones yesterday were fine. But Annie was supposed to be in, I assume she helped you find them. Or did you break in?”

“I… yeah. She let me in.”

“Good. Was she OK?”

“I guess… about as well as can be expected in the circumstances?”

“Yeah. We’re all a little off right now. Sorry if she wasn’t at her best.” She smiled up at him. “She’s a really good person and you’re both very important to me, so it’s good for you to hang out. I know you guys will get along great with a bit more time.”

He opened his mouth as if he was going to say something, and then just nodded. “Sure.”

They sat together on the bed for a while in silence, him stroking her hair. She breathed deeply, her eyes fluttering closed. It wasn’t late yet, but she felt very tired all of a sudden. Perhaps sleeping now would be a good idea. She tended to do the late shift watching Cal – not just because she could quite easily be up at those hours, but also because it meant she wouldn’t have to see anybody else waiting outside in the hopes that he’d be OK. Very few other people were ever allowed into the Caern, even under circumstances like this. It almost made it worse, knowing she could go in and see him, but the others just had to wait outside.

“You know,” she mumbled against his chest. “I wasn’t joking about the washing thing. You’ll have to carry me if you want it to happen now.”

“I… sure. Better sooner, right?” He scooped her up in his arms, sliding off the bed and heading towards the en-suite. “You OK?”

“Yeah.” She raised a hand touch his face. “It’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

“I love you, Jules. Don’t ever forget that, OK? No matter what.”

She frowned. “Well, now you’re kind of scaring me. What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Just… I love you.”



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