Author: nowforruin PM
Story picks up right after Bella jumps in New Moon. Alice actually listened to Edward and didn't see Bella, and Edward never goes to Volterra. Yet with Bella alive and well in Forks, how long is this separation really going to last? AU, mild OOCRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 23 - Words: 133,928 - Reviews: 217 - Favs: 351 - Follows: 103 - Updated: 03-13-10 - Published: 11-15-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5512673
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
AN: The sequence of events may seem a little off as you move on through the story. It's like that on purpose. I needed things to happen in a certain way to fit the story I wanted to tell. It is intentional that Bella is still in high school even though Edward's been gone for a year. Happy reading! =)
1. Robert Frost is a liar
Robert Frost once wrote, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both, And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far I could To where it bent in the undergrowth." It's all well and good; I knew where Frost was coming from, but I had to call shenanigans on his ending: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by."
Frost is a liar.
The road "less traveled by" is the hard road. Nothing has been tested, and no safety net is waiting to catch you when you fall. Maybe it's because I had never known a yellow wood – only green, green, green – but having looked down two very different paths, I chose the easy one, with smooth, even paths and a calm, reassuring voice to guide my way.
Waiting in the midst of this green, just on the edge of a familiar, worn path, I recalled the very moment I had made the decision, the day I had picked my path.
I had a moment of stupidity, that much should be admitted. With a hurricane blowing up the Pacific coast, I had thought it an ideal day to try out cliff jumping. At maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, sometimes lifting the grocery bags from the bed of my truck gave me difficulty. Looking back on that moment, I must have been out of my mind. I definitely had been earlier in the year. And why? Edward.
Thinking his name brought on a familiar ache, deep in my torso. It was no longer the yawning chasm it had once been, but instead a dull throb, a scar I knew I would never lose. The wound had healed but the memory of it was burned into every fiber of my being, searing the nerve endings so that it was impossible for them to ever return to their former abilities to feel. He wasn't coming back. It had been nearly a year; Forks was buzzing with teenage anxiety as August drew to a close and for some, their final year of high school was about to begin.
I closed my eyes and leaned back against the damp moss of a tree, forcing myself to remember the breaking point. I had jumped off that cliff – and I could only admit it with distance – at a true low. I couldn't have Edward, so I found ways to bring a very real-feeling delusion to life. Jumping off that cliff, in that weather, would have infuriated him, and in my mind his velvet voice screaming at me had been pure bliss. The current had thrashed me against rocks and waves, tearing, shredding, and still I had clung to the soft growl in his voice.
But it was the very real concern in Jacob's eyes when he had hauled me up from the beach that actually happened that day. Edward didn't cry out for my safe return; he didn't appear to rescue me. Jacob did. Yet even then, I hadn't been ready to let go.
Jacob had brought me home, forced me to change my clothes, and adopted a semi-permanent position on my couch, arms firmly wrapped around me. His warmth was soothing after the blistering cold of the ocean. My body was so exhausted I gave in and snuggled up closer to him, too tired to care about how he would take it. I drifted in and out of sleep, until the shrilling of the phone woke me.
"Hello?" I asked hoarsely into the phone, my throat still raw from the salt water I had inhaled. "Hello?" Still no answer. "Hello?" I asked again, clutching the phone to my ear. It was dead silent on the other end; whoever it was, they weren't breathing.
"Hang up, Bells," Jacob murmured softly, reaching to take the phone from me. "It's probably just a wrong number."
"No!" I shouted stubbornly, yanking the phone away from his out-stretched hand, the shout scraping harshly against my raw throat. There were only a handful of people I knew who didn't have to breathe, who could maintain that dead of a silence. "Edward?" I asked softly into the phone, tears pricking my eyes. Maybe Alice had seen me jump the cliff? Maybe she thought something had happened? Maybe Edward still cared enough to check on me?
"Edward?" I pled again, the tears starting to stream silently down my cheeks. "Please, please say something!" There was a soft click and the silence was replaced by a dial tone. "Edward," I whispered as Jacob slowly reached for the phone, one by one unraveling my fingers from where they gripped the receiver in a choke hold. The tears fell freely, gushing from my already bloodshot eyes with no sign of letting up. "I know it was him!" I insisted, watching Jacob's face as he pulled the phone away from me. "I know it, Jake, don't look at me like that!"
"Bella." His voice was strained, like it was taking all of his effort to maintain composure. The anger burning in his eyes as he finally turned to me made it even more obvious. "It wasn't Edward. You know it. I know it. It's been months."
"No," I insisted, choking down a sob. I wiped furiously at the tears still falling unchecked down my cheeks. "No, it was! Alice, she, she would have seen and he would…I mean, what if she only saw me jump, but she didn't see you rescue me?" I begged, appealing to Jacob. I hadn't told him about Edward's voice, which I had by then slowly come to accept as a delusion. It wasn't real, and somewhere, deep down, I knew seeking it out was going to have long term consequences if I didn't start to get a grip.
Jacob was silent, staring at me with a dark, brooding frown. He remained still for a long moment before he sighed heavily and reached for me. I was too tired, too weak to fight, and didn't bother to resist as he wrapped me in his long arms, resting his chin on my forehead. His fingers stroked my tangled hair gently, every now and then reaching down to wipe the tears still steadily falling against his T-shirt. He smelled of the sea as I buried my face against his chest, defeat coursing through me. Of course he was right. It wasn't Edward. The Edward I knew would never have been satisfied with a phone call; he would have appeared on my doorstep, demanded to know if I was alright, to see for himself. The ache in my chest ripped wide, the hole I had been desperately trying to sew back up burst, and I gasped for air, the sobs tearing me apart. I was sure when I looked up, Jacob would still be there, but covered in pieces of me.
"He's really not coming back, is he?" I gasped, clutching Jacob as wave after wave of pain slammed into me. It was like being trapped in the current all over again, except I knew there was no one who could save me. It was a current was stronger than any ocean, hurricane be damned, and it was unrelenting. It had threatened to pull me under time and time again, but I knew its pull like a lover's touch. "I thought… I thought…"
"Bella," Jacob said slowly, pulling me back from his chest. His jaw was tight, his eyes darker than usual as they sought mine. I avoided his gaze for a long moment before giving up, letting myself be trapped by the power in it. His almond skin was pulled taut against his cheeks, tension rippling in his shoulders. "Bella, did you jump off that cliff because you thought it would make him come back?!"
I opened my mouth to speak, but then instantly snapped it shut. The pain and fear pouring from Jacob's gaze was too much. I wanted to lie. I wanted to insist that no, I jumped off that cliff because I was bored, because I wanted to see what it was like, maybe even admit to the delusion voice, but I stopped. Because it would all be a lie – and lying to Jacob was something I couldn't do. He had been my only comfort in the long months, had never once complained about my abysmal moods, or my new found aversion to simple things like the radio.
When I remained silent, he reached for me again, his callused palm gripping the side of my face, forcing me to hold his gaze. "Bella," he begged, desperation entering his voice, a tinge of fear coating the word. "Bella, please."
"Yes," I finally whispered, admitting the truth as much to myself as to him. I had hoped, somewhere deep down, that such an act of stupidity would bring him back. I remembered his demand in the woods, making me promise not to do anything stupid, to be safe, and I had hoped that such a violation of that promise would bring him running. Of course it hadn't. Promises didn't matter as much to Edward as they did to me. I recalled, vividly recalled, making him promise not to leave me…and him agreeing. But he had broken that promise. What did it matter if I didn't keep any of mine?
But the truth hurt. It hurt all over again, remembering that day in the woods, the way it felt like I was dying and being forced to live through it. Edward's amber eyes burned my memory, pierced the last remaining vestige of hope I held buried deep within me, and shredded it. My body shook against Jacob, the tears and despair violently jostling me like a roller coaster ride from hell.
"Bella…" Jacob sighed into my hair, his own voice strained with emotion. I could hear the rage, but more than that, I could hear how I was breaking his heart by going to pieces. I had been so careful in front of him, keeping it together, hiding all of my pain deep enough to suffer alone. But there was no stopping any of it that afternoon; I had lost all control over my movements as I shuddered through each fresh round of sobs.
We sat on the couch like that for minutes, hours, I couldn't tell. At some point Charlie came home and had a furious, whispered conversation with Jacob, but he eventually let us be. I alternated between breathless sobs, clinging to Jacob like he was the only thing tethering me to the world and then lapsing into long, numb silences while the pain washed through me, burning much like I had suspected the venom would have, had Edward stayed.
Yet when it faded, hours later, I was cried out. My body felt like a pile of ash, like an all consuming wildfire had razed my veins and left behind only dust. Sluggishly imaging my veins clogged with ash, I turned my gaze back to Jacob. His arms were still around me, but at some point in my silence he had fallen into an exhausted sleep, my emotional breakdown and his rescue finally too much for one day. I knew I should apologize to Charlie, who undoubtedly had been filled in on my latest stunt by Billy sometime in the last few hours, but for once, I let the selfish desire to put it off win. I watched Jacob sleep for a few moments, his head thrown back against the couch, lips slightly parted. Dark bruises showed under his eyes, nothing like the terrible purple color frequently painting Edward's skin, but dark enough to make me worry.
I tentatively reached out, a sudden urge coming over me to feel his heated skin under my touch as I shook off the stupor. I reached for his hair, which he was slowly growing back out, undoubtedly due to my preference for it that way. The usual softness was caked with saltwater, but I didn't notice. What startled me was how in his sleep, my touch brought two reactions from Jacob: first, his arms which had held me the entire time tightened, pulling me closer to his chest and second…his face tiled toward my touch, seeking it out. I watched, fascinated at his vulnerability, at the way his emotions were clearly on display.
All of our small movements finally stirred him from his sleep, his eyes cracking open to study me sleepily. "Hey," he mumbled, removing his arms from around my waist and stretching high above his head. The sudden coolness jabbed back at the hole in my chest and set it aching all over again. I hurriedly cuddled closer to him, terrified of the wracking grief returning anew. I didn't answer his greeting, instead pressing myself closer to him, burying my face in his neck. His scent was nothing like Edward's; Jacob smelt more real. I could smell the remnants of the ocean, the earthy smell of the woods and the faint hint of sweat, all mixed into the delicious scent of Jacob's skin that was indescribable. It would never hypnotize me the way Edward's had, but there was something undeniable in its pull.
"Bella?" Jacob asked, concern lacing his voice. He gently pulled my face back from his neck, both hands firmly cupping my cheeks. His eyes bore into mine, confusion mired with…hope? "Bells, c'mon, talk to me."
"He's not coming back," I said after a long pause, hating how flat and dead, and incredibly raw my voice sounded, even to myself. "He's really, really, not ever coming back. None of them are…" I trailed off, squeezing my eyes shut against the threat of tears rising again. I knew Edward was gone. I had tried desperately to accept that, but a part of me had hoped to maybe see Alice again. But the afternoon had confirmed it; Alice wasn't coming back either. I would never see the fatherly concern in Carlisle's again, be enveloped in the warmth of Esme's embrace, or watch Emmett gloat over Xbox. The future I had dreamed of, the family I had hoped for as my own, it was all gone. All that was left were the painful memories and the wrenching hole gaping in my chest where once upon a time the capacity to love had resided.
"I'm sorry…" Jacob mumbled, drawing me close to him again. I took a deep breath, willing the tears to go away, and desperately prayed I wouldn't cry again. I finally noticed it was dark in the living room, the sound of rain pitter-pattering against the glass. The house was silent. I had no idea what time it was, but there wasn't a trace of Charlie stirring. I guessed it was very late.
I was suddenly stifling, suffocating. I pushed Jacob away, greedily sucking air into my lungs. I felt like the walls were closing in, panic setting in. Is this an anxiety attack? I wondered, gasping for air again.
"Bella!" Jacob hissed, quickly sitting up and reaching for me. His touch only made it worse; I shoved myself from the couch, the room spinning with a sudden dizziness. I didn't bother with shoes, or a jacket; I just blindly groped for the door until I was on the porch, the rain instantly soaking through my T-shirt as I stumbled down the stairs. By the time Jacob had followed me out, I was thoroughly preoccupied being sick all over the driveway. The tears had come back as my stomach heaved, expelling what little bit had been in it, as the rain ran streaming down my cheeks.
Jacob was silent as he slowly dragged me up from the driveway, my hair dripping rain water down his shoulders as I clung to him again, letting him lead me back to the cover of the porch. I was grateful he didn't try and force me back into the house. Judging by the lack of lights on in any of the surrounding houses, my assumption it had to be very late was confirmed. Instead, he folded me into his lap on one of the giant Adirondack chairs on the porch, enveloping me in a strangely comfortable damp warmth. The tears left as suddenly as they had reappeared and the numbness crept back in, soothing the throbbing edges of the wound in my chest. Even with Jacob's arms surrounding my own, gripping tightly to keep my body intact, I still felt like I could fall apart at any moment.
We both fell asleep at some point, because the next thing I knew the sun was rising, the sky pink in patches free of the ever present storm clouds. I watched for a long moment, marveling at the contrast of brilliant pink and angry gray. As I turned my gaze back to Jacob, I found his eyes open, his gaze concentrated on my face. "Bella…" he breathed sleepily, bringing one hand to my hair. It was snarled from the rain, but he gently wound his fingers into the knots, bringing me closer to him. His eyes held mine intently, and I couldn't quite place what I saw there. Concern, fear, worry, those were clear after nearly an entire day's worth of them, but they were colored with traces of something else, something more…determination?
I knew what was going to happen before it did, but I didn't bother to stop it. Jacob's lips were quite suddenly on mine, and I marveled at their softness. Kissing Edward was amazing in its own way, but it was a strange sensation to kiss lips that didn't give. I could feel Jacob's lips molding around mine as the kiss continued, my own mouth paralyzed against his. A thousand different thoughts were running through my mind in that moment; painful thoughts of kissing Edward, unable to stop the comparison my mind was making between the two of them…and the urge to kiss back.
Emotionally exhausted, all attempt at self control faded. I gave in to the warmth of Jacob, to the desire to just feel something. Already curled into his lap, I pressed against him, returning the kiss with vigor. He felt the shift in my mood and crushed his mouth more firmly against mine, tangling his fingers into my hair even as my own fingers curled around the back of his neck, drawing him closer, closer, closer. His mouth opened under mine almost instantly, with only the slightest encouragement. I was amazed at the new experience; Edward never allowed himself to kiss me like that, but Jacob didn't care. His tongue assaulted mine, dove into my mouth, licked at my lips before allowing me to chase him back. With one hand still securely on the back of his neck, my other hand fell to his T-shirt, gathering a fistful of the fabric tightly as I gasped against him. His mouth left mine, tracing a path down my jaw, softly murmuring my name as he kissed lightly down my neck, nuzzling his lips against my collarbones. I gasped at the sensation, the way his tongue darted out every now and then to taste my skin.
"You don't know how much I've dreamed of this," Jacob whispered against my ear, his breath hot, his lips brushing against my skin and making me shiver. "You're so beautiful…"
I pulled away slightly, drawing a shaky breath as I stared into his eyes. He wasn't Edward. I wasn't sure I would ever feel the way I had about him about anyone again. But Jacob…Jacob had a place in the ruins of my heart; it was impossible to deny it any more. He knew I was damaged goods and he wanted me anyway. In that one moment, wound together on a chair on my father's porch, Jacob had made me feel something again. Maybe in time I could be fully recovered; maybe in time I could think of Edward without hurting. But he wasn't coming back, and holding out for that wasn't going to get me anywhere.
"Jake…" I began hesitantly, his arms still tightly around me. We were inches apart as I spoke, our lips nearly touching. He looked like he wanted to say something, but stopped when I turned my eyes back to his, begging. Please just let me say this, I pleaded silently. "I… I don't want to hurt you…"
"I know what I'm doing," he whispered, his voice husky. His lips reached forward and brushed against mine, very lightly. He pulled back, planting another kiss against my forehead and tucking me protectively back against his chest. "I don't expect anything from you, Bells. I know how badly he's hurt you, and I know you can't snap your fingers and make the pain go away. All I can say is that I won't hurt you like that, I'll never leave you and we'll…well, we'll just…we'll go at your pace, ok?"
I grinned happily at the memory, leaning back against the bark of a tree on the edge of Charlie's yard. I could hear the snapping of twigs on the path and knew Jacob would be there momentarily. He had explained to me that though he was perfectly capable of silence, he thought it was polite to give me a proper warning when sneaking through my father's backyard. Within moments, he was there, breathing heavily from his run, clad only in a pair of cut-off black sweatpants. For once, it wasn't actually raining, and the warmth of August had allowed me to emerge from the house in jean shorts and a thin tank top. Jacob's eyes ran over me appreciatively once, before pulling me tightly against him. His lips found mine, and I wrapped myself tightly into his arm, loving the warmth and the safety I felt in his arms.
My biggest concern had simply become how difficult the AP classes I had signed up for were going to be, or if I was finally going to lose my temper and punch Lauren in her pretty little face. The sunlight filtered down through the trees, making my pale skin glow and Jacob's tan just a little deeper. As he pulled away, sliding his fingers through mine, a slight shiver went down my spine. He raised one eyebrow at me, a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he paused, ghosting his fingers down along my neck and eliciting another shiver. His merry laughter echoed around the forest as he pulled me back, and I forced a grin, burying myself against his chest as we started into the wood. I was too terrified to explain to him the first shiver had nothing to do with his touch.