What I Saw

By Genealogygirl

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Many thanks to Lakegirl, who provided some great early-on structural comments, and to heartofwine for really insightful and extensive beta comments. This fic was much improved by the suggestions and edits of both these talented editors and writers.

As anyone who posts regularly on the Twilight Lexicon knows, I've not been Jacob Black's biggest fan. This fic was my attempt to understand Jacob more fully and to explore how I might come to view him in a more positive light later in the series. This is a Jacob Black I can love and fully support, and I now have every confidence that canon!Jacob can evolve in a way that will win my love and respect.

For purposes of this fic, I've adopted the canon inference that Jacob has a problem thinking of the Cullens as individuals with names. In New Moon, for example, he seems genuinely surprised that Alice has a name. As best I can tell, he has never said Edward's name out loud in canon. So, in this fic, he thinks of Edward as He, he and him (the italics indicate when Jacob is referring to Edward) rather than by his given name through at least the first 2/3 of the story. He thinks of Edward's family members in generic terms ("the doctor") or in quotes ("Emmett").

And apologies in advance – I'm also apparently too verbose. This fic is very long, but it just didn't break naturally into chapters so I'm posting it as a very lengthy one-shot.

Unsigned. No return address. Before I even picked up the small white card that had fallen out of the bills and leaflets, I knew that it was from her. I read the card – addressed in her recognizable scrawl to "The Jacob Black family" – and I grinned. So, they were in Minnesota now.

I slipped the card inside my shirt pocket and began humming one of the kids' songs. Why were Wiggles songs so sing-able? Even though the group had stopped performing several years ago, my young sons seemed delighted by the reruns on television, and those songs seemed to pop into my head without warning. Irritating, that.

Years ago, a few days after I'd gotten a similar card with a postmark from a small town in Oregon, I'd found myself in that same area visiting friends. I checked the local high school parking lot, looking around for high-end cars. I'd waited outside the lot each day for a week without a sign of them. I decided that though they were probably somewhere in the general vicinity, caution had dictated that they mail the card from another town. I contented myself from then on with just knowing her general locale.

After the kids were settled in bed and the dishes washed up, I casually told Angela that I thought I would drive in to Forks and see if Charlie was watching the basketball playoffs. She raised her eyebrows, and I passed the postcard to her without comment. She smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure he'd be happy to see you."

As I started up my car and pulled onto the road, my thoughts naturally drifted to that spring day a dozen years ago when it had all started. That fateful Saturday, I'd taken a hike to release some pent-up frustration and had found Bella and Edward in their circular meadow. How quickly everything had changed from the moment I saw them that day! Though my pack brothers hadn't at first been especially pleased by the changes those events had wrought in me, they came to respect the new Jacob with time. . . .

In those days, Paul was very much a hothead, as he demonstrated the second I walked through the door of Sam's house.

"Where the hell have you been?" Paul demanded.

The others looked up, with expressions ranging from wary distrust to unbridled anger. I shut the door quietly and moved to take my usual seat at the kitchen table. They had been eating breakfast, and it was mostly gone, but I managed to scrounge a muffin from the breadbasket. I broke it in half and stared down at it in my hands, unsure how to begin.

"Jake, we've been thinking you were dead for the last 48 hours," Sam said in an icy voice, his dark eyes piercing into mine as I looked up. "Your father is beside himself. I don't suppose you thought about . . . ."

"I've seen my dad already," I cut in curtly. "I just came from there."

"Are you planning to tell us where you've been or not?" Paul demanded. His face was flushed, and he was beginning to shake.

"Get a fucking grip, Paul," I said as Paul's convulsive shaking intensified dangerously. "Do you want to hear what I've got to say or not?"

Sam grabbed Paul's shirt collar and shook him. "If you can't keep it under control, get the hell outside." He nodded in Emily's direction. I hadn't noticed that she had been sitting quietly on a stool in the kitchen. Paul nodded once to indicate he was ready to listen to me and sat back down, taking deep breaths.

"I went hiking on Saturday morning, needing to clear my head. I'd had another argument with Bella on Friday, a bad one. So, I was hiking, and now I know why she was so keen to find that circular meadow, the one where we killed that vampire last spring." The others nodded, remembering, and I went on, "So, I was hiking and found myself emerging from the forest into that meadow. And they were there. They were kissing and . . . .," I trailed off, the painful memory of watching their intimacy flooding my consciousness anew.

"And?" Embry finally prompted.

"And, he and I got into it, and things got out of control. Way out of control," I paused. "I phased of course, and we were circling each other, with Bella screaming at both of us all the while. We were starting to get seriously into fight mode, and at one point, I lunged at him. I'm not sure even yet if he would have avoided it or not. But . . . .," my voice cracked and I looked away for a few moments. Finally, I was able to refocus, looking directly at Sam, "But, Bella got right in the middle, and the swipe I intended to catch him across the throat hit her square in the chest. There was so much blood. She was losing so much blood."

Sam was staring at me in horror and started when Emily put her hand on his shoulder. He reached up and covered it with his own. "Jake?" he prompted uncertainly.

I looked up at Sam, realizing with a jolt that he, better than any of the others, must surely understand the guilt and pain I'd felt then and now. "He was still snarling at me and warned me in no uncertain terms to stay back. I was frustrated; once she was hurt, I was concerned about her, not some quarrel with him. She was still losing blood rapidly, and he was talking to her. I don't think she was very lucid. But, he looked at me and said, 'I can't get her back to my father in time; she's losing too much blood. I'm going to save her. My way.'"

"What!" Paul exclaimed, half-rising from his seat before Sam pushed him back down.

The others were muttering and cursing under their breath but refrained from outright comments in the face of Sam's glare.

"And I understood then what he meant to do," I went on. "That he was going to bite her, change her into one of them. But, I couldn't fight it. It was my fault anyway, and it was so obvious that she couldn't make it back to town. It was the only way. And even though I'd always thought I'd rather see her dead than live a cursed undead life with them, when it came down to it, all I wanted was for her to not leave me, not leave this world; especially not when her blood would be on my hands." I put my head down for a moment, and then looked up at the others. "So, I watched him bite her."

"He broke the damn Treaty," Paul cut in.

"The Treaty is not broken and is still in force," I retorted. "He and I made a deal."

"You can't cut deals like that for the pack, Jacob, leader or not," Sam argued. "If he bit her, the Treaty is broken, plain and simple."

"The circumstances. . . .," I began.

"There are no special circumstances or exceptions in the Treaty for a werewolf who's in love with a lost cause," Jared growled. "She chose the fucking bastard of a bloodsucker a long time ago, and you've just never accepted that. Now you expect us to just sit back and do nothing when they've just added another foul bloodsucker to the world's population? Or," he paused, "was he too late? Did she die anyway? Are you saying the Treaty isn't broken because it's a moot point?"

I took a deep breath, trying not to rise to the bait. "No, she did not die," I replied coolly. "The Treaty isn't broken, but not because of some deal I made with him in the heat of the moment. No, the Treaty isn't broken, but it's because . . . because of what I saw. What I saw afterwards, at their house." I stopped, shaking my head to clear it. I hadn't slept much at all in the last few days and exhaustion was clearly catching up with me.

Sam held up a hand to silence Paul who looked ready to interrupt. "What did you see, Jacob? Tell us."

Pausing to take a bite of the crumpled muffin in my hand, I then began to recount what I had seen and experienced over the previous 48 hours . . .

He bit her several times. He wasn't sucking her blood. He was just . . . biting her. The first thing I noticed was that her blood loss slowed dramatically and then stopped completely as he was biting her. But, after a short while, she started to scream in pain. I nearly lost control again hearing her in such pain. It was agony to hear her, but then I realized that her screaming meant that she was feeling something. She hadn't been able to talk before. Now, she was screaming his name, begging him to make it stop. Fire. She called it fire. He didn't try to make her understand what was happening at that point. He just looked at me and said, "Keep up if you want, but I have to get her to my father quickly."

So I followed. I found it easier to keep up as a wolf. He was running like he was possessed. I've seen the bloodsuckers run before of course, but none of them have anything on this one. Even carrying her, he was like nothing I've ever seen. He kept off the trails too. Turns out he was probably taking the most direct route to his home. I had never thought about where they lived before that afternoon.

When we got to his house, he bounded in without a backward glance, and I wasn't sure what I should do. I didn't want to phase back. My clothes were miles away in the forest. So I decided to just sit down by a tree outside for awhile and get control again. I desperately wanted to know what was going on with Bella, but I didn't know how I could approach the front door as a werewolf for God's sake, so I just sat out there for awhile. I don't think it was very long though. I looked up when the front door opened, and the doctor's wife came out towards me, carrying a small bag. She stopped a few feet away, and she looked . . . well, cautious I guess.

"I'm Esme Cullen, Jacob. It looks like you might need some clothes if you're going to come inside to see Bella," she said quietly and she smiled at me.

I looked inside the bag she had tossed towards me, and it had a very large t-shirt and sweat pants. I was shocked. Shocked that she would bring clothes to me. Shocked that she would come close to me at all.

"They're Emmett's – his will be the closest to your size that we have. I think they'll be okay, but maybe a bit short. When you've changed, come knock on the door and I'll take you in to her. Edward said you were to come in . . . if you want."

I was remembering Bella's anguished screams of pain as we'd run through the forest and desperately wanted to ask how Bella was, but of course, I couldn't speak in my current form. The doctor's wife must have read something on my face though.

"Edward and Alice are with her, and Jasper has gone to bring Carlisle from the hospital. He wasn't answering his cell phone. It's a painful process," she said simply. "But I think she will be all right," she added gently. I was grateful to her for giving me some news and for thinking to bring me some clothes. I was grateful to her for inviting me into their house, something I never would have expected.

I phased back under some trees away from the house and changed quickly. I wasn't sure then, but I assumed "Emmett" must be the bigger one. His clothes weren't too bad on me, just short. After I finished dressing, I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The doctor's wife opened it at once.

"Come in, Jacob," she said politely. "We've got Bella in our room. It's up this way. Edward says that her father is away on a fishing trip in Canada for all of this next week?" I nodded – Bella had mentioned that yesterday, before we'd fought. The doctor's wife motioned for me to follow her up the stairs. I was so nervous, it was all I could do not to bound ahead and push her out of the way. I could hear Bella's screams from downstairs, and it was unnerving. I wanted to see her. I wanted the doctor to get there. I was a wreck. It was all I could do not to phase, not to lose control. The vampire stench was everywhere of course, which made everything that much worse.

When the doctor's wife opened the door, I saw that Bella was on the bed, clutching his hands tightly and screaming, begging him to make it all stop. The little female with the short black hair was there too. "Alice" ---- that's what the doctor's wife had said and now I remembered Bella had used that name for her last spring ----- she was there too, sponging Bella's forehead with a damp cloth. It was apparently not doing the slightest bit of good. Bella moaned and writhed on the bed, occasionally swatting at the damp cloth as though it was more annoyance than anything else.

"That's not helping her," he muttered in a tight voice, waving his hand to indicate she should stop.

"I want to help though. There must be something we can do to make her more comfortable." "Alice" glanced at me with an unfathomable expression as I sank into an armchair in the corner of the room. He never looked up or acknowledged my presence at all.

Bella shrieked in pain and tried to sit up, but he held her fast with both his hands. "Bella, Bella, I'm right here. I know it's horrible. I'm right here, sweetheart, and Jasper has gone to get Carlisle. He can help." He looked doubtful as he said this last part. "Bella, can you hear me?" He looked anxious, for she had slipped into a stupor of sorts, no longer screaming in anguish and not responding at all.

I wanted to spring up; I wanted to grab her and run, though I didn't know where I could take her or what anyone could do for her now. She was in so much pain, and I berated myself incessantly for having let things get so out of control. Bella was paying a terrible price for my ego and wounded pride.

He looked up at the others with desperation evident in his eyes, "Where is Rosalie? She would remember Emmett's change; I need her. I need her to tell me if this is normal." His voice broke slightly, and he turned back to Bella, murmuring endearments in her ear and trying to rouse her out of the lethargic stupor. "Please," he seemed to almost beg, "can you find her?" He didn't take his eyes off Bella, but his voice was low and intense.

I supposed "Rosalie" must be the other female, the tall blonde one.

"She and Emmett drove over to Seattle last night, Edward. But, I called just now and they are quite close. I'll go meet them and send her up. Carlisle will be here soon. Jasper should have found him by now," the doctor's wife assured him.

He merely nodded. Moments later, Bella began to writhe and moan again.

"Bella, Bella, can you hear me?"

"Edward. Oh Edward, it's so much worse than I thought it . . . .," she broke off in an agonized scream of pain, and I saw him tightening his hold on her hands as she thrashed violently.

I had balled my hands into fists and was taking deep breaths, focusing hardest on not phasing into a wolf. "Bella, oh Bella, I'm so sorry. I can't believe I put you of all people in danger. I swore I'd never hurt you, and now look what I've caused. Now I've hurt you in the worst way possible."

The door suddenly opened, and two more vampires joined the group clustered around the bed. The stench was overpowering to me, but I couldn't imagine leaving and getting fresh air, not even for a second. All I could think about was his anxiety level; he seemed worried that something wasn't going right. All I knew was that she wasn't going to bleed to death before my eyes, which had seemed very likely an hour ago. But if he was worried, then I thought I ought to be worried too.

"What happened?" the one I thought must be "Emmett" asked. He threw a hard glance in my direction and raised his eyebrows.

"Never mind that, now," he muttered. He looked up at the blonde female, anxiety etched on his face. "She lapsed into a stupor a few minutes ago; she wasn't screaming or even responding. Clearly she's feeling the transformation again now," he added unnecessarily as Bella thrashed hard against his tight grip. "But, why would she go slack like that? Did that happen when Emmett transformed? I was away hunting when you first brought Emmett to Carlisle. Is this normal?" He'd said all this very fast, and I was surprised at the intense emotions playing out across his face. I didn't think they had sort of emotion in them, the bloodsuckers.

The blonde, "Rosalie," frowned. "Yes, Emmett had periods where he didn't seem to feel anything, and he did go into almost a lethargic state at those times. They got more and more frequent towards the end. None of them lasted long though, no more than a minute or two perhaps."

"That's about how long she seemed out of it," he said quietly. "But you're saying that at first Emmett didn't have those moments of rest, right?"

She nodded, and her eyes looked more sympathetic as she watched his brow crease in worry. The bloodsuckers all talk very rapidly, and it was sometimes hard to catch exactly what was being said. Their expressions were easier to read.

Just then, I looked up in surprise as the doctor was suddenly there at the bedside, asking low questions in that rapid manner of speaking. I hadn't seen him come in, and I was so focused on what they were all saying that I hadn't heard or smelled his approach.

"She seemed to be slipping away just a moment ago . . . lethargic . . . did I do something wrong? . . .can it go badly? Rosalie says Emmett didn't have anything like that for some time into his change," I heard him asking in a desperate voice.

The doctor took his son's face in his hands (I was very surprised by that) and shook his head. "It can go wrong I think," he said carefully, "But this all looks normal, based on my experience, Edward. She's going to have brief moments of respite from the pain, and when that happens, her body's natural response is to relax as completely as possible from the tension and onslaught of pain that it's fighting against so fiercely. A lethargic stupor like you describe is normal. The periods of respite will gradually get longer and more frequent towards the very end. Kind of like reverse childbirth," he smiled wryly. "That's the way it has happened with all of you anyway. I'm wondering if maybe she won't have a shorter transformation, actually, if she's already starting to have these moments of rest."

The doctor dropped his hands from his face and began to examine Bella's bite wounds, asking questions about the timing of each bite.

"At what point is the danger of something going wrong past though? Isn't there a point when it's physically inevitable?" the dark-haired female asked.

"Well, this is all really conjecture on my part," the doctor replied. "But . . . I think it could be possible for the mind to reject what's happening to the body. I think it could be that a person could resist forcefully enough that he could . . . choose a normal human death. But, I don't know if or when this possibility, if it exists at all, would cease to be an option." He took a deep breath and quickly went on, "I don't think you need to worry about that possibility, Edward. This was Bella's clear and conscious choice. She wanted this very much; she was expecting it to happen at some point soon. She'll fight to stay with you in any case. The best thing you can do is be in her face with your presence, keep your name on her lips, keep her as consciously aware of what's going on around her as you can."

He nodded his understanding, but his expression was bleak and pained. He clutched Bella's hands in his and bent his face to hers, murmuring things I still didn't want to hear, things I didn't want to know or understand about the two of them. I looked away, wracked by a fresh wave of the jealousy that had spurred me into the meadow in the first place. "It's not my name she's calling out. It's not me she wants to help her bear this pain. She doesn't even seem to remember that I was there in the meadow. It's only him. She wants to be one of them, so she can be with him. Why would you want to give up your life, Bella? He's not worth it. Why would you choose this sort of existence, with these bloodsuckers? I know you think you love him, but Bella, you're only 18. Your feelings could change, and then where will you be?" I sighed. "Too late for this conversation," I reminded myself, putting my head in my hands.

The doctor nodded to me as he left the room, motioning for the others to come with him.

And so it went on.

The doctor's wife brought me food and cans of soda periodically, mentioning at one point that it was nice that it wasn't going to waste for once. It took me a bit to comprehend what she meant. I finally realized that she shopped for groceries to keep up the lie.

I only left to use the restroom, but he never looked at me or acknowledged my presence in any way. He never took his eyes off Bella. The others seemed to gradually get used to my being there, and I took it all in, watching them interact with her and with each other. I snatched a bit of sleep here and there, but it was difficult to rest with her in so much agonizing pain. When Bella seemed to drift out of the most excruciating pain, it was easiest to hear what they were saying to each other and what he was saying to Bella. Most of the time, her screams filled the room so completely that I thought my head would explode from the pain of hearing her. The doctor came in frequently, and the others wandered in, usually one at a time. After the first horrible night had passed, they would each offer to sit with Bella, urging him to get some fresh air, take a mental break. He refused each time, politely but firmly.

"No. She has to know I'm here," he insisted to that little female, Alice.

She nodded grimly. She watched them for a few moments and then spoke again. "Sing to her, Edward. She loves to hear you sing; it will help her."

He sang then softly, and I had to admit, he had a nice singing voice. I didn't recognize many of the songs he sang to her, but she seemed to know them. Alice was right. It was soothing to her, even if it couldn't take away her pain.

The big one – "Emmett" -- came in near sunset on Sunday. He stepped to the bedside quietly.

"You're thirsty," he observed as his brother looked up. He shook his head mutely. "You are," Emmett insisted. "Take an hour and go hunt, Edward. My hands are strong; she can clamp down on me all she wants."

He shook his head again, and "Emmett" sighed. "You are so damned stubborn. The two of you are quite a pair; she gives you a run for your money in that department."

Bella was lucid briefly, calling out to him (of course), but seeming to see or hear the other one. "Emmett" leaned down close to her and kissed her cheek. "Hey, Bel, I told you that you'd do fine as long as you got to keep an angel with you, remember?"

"I remember," she gasped and something like a smile crossed her face for a split second, before she closed her eyes and moaned again.

Emmett sat down on the bed and took one of her hands. "Okay, so you won't go hunt. But, I'm going to sit with the two of you for awhile all the same. All right?" He nodded, and it seemed to me that he was unable to speak.

I was surprised by the concern that "Emmett" seemed to have for both of them . . . and yet, on the other hand, I wasn't as surprised as I might have been two days ago. I had gradually realized that Bella had spent enough time here that she had developed relationships with the other members of his coven. "No, his family," I corrected myself. For these bloodsuckers clearly regarded each other as a family; they weren't just a group living together out of some sense of convenience.

Not long after "Emmett" left, I overheard the doctor on a phone conversation from down the hall. Charlie.

"No, no, she's fine really. It's just a stomach bug, but Edward didn't like her staying by herself in that state, so Esme has fixed her up in the guestroom. It's all perfectly fine. I can have her call your cell phone when she wakes up, if you like . . . . no cell phone?" I couldn't help smiling at the relief the doctor must feel that his bluff couldn't be called. "Well, if you don't get an answer at the house the next time you're near a phone, call back out here. Yes, she's absolutely fine. No . . . really, she's just sleeping it off, don't worry, Charlie."

It was during one of Bella's quiet moments later that night that the blonde female came in. He had his head resting on Bella's chest. Listening. Listening to whether her heart beat yet I supposed.

The blonde female was the only one so far who didn't offer that he could leave and take a break. "I remember," she said simply when he noted this wryly.

He simply nodded.

"The worst of it should be over soon," she informed him, appraising Bella's pale form.

"The worst will never be over," he muttered, shaking his head.

"Being one of the eternally damned, undead? I know you never wanted this for her, but it was her choice. You know that."

I sat up straighter and leaned in closer. He hadn't wanted her to become one of them? Why?

He barked a short, harsh laugh. "Well, it's a good thing I'd already written off my own soul. I may have thought I've played God in the past, but all of that pales in comparison to what I just did."

"Rosalie" shook her head, sat down on the bed next to him and pulled his face around to look at her. "You love her, and she loves you. You have the power to save her, and you used it. You used it knowing that this is what she wanted anyway. Why in the hell are you being so hard on yourself? Are you saying you should have let her bleed to death before your very eyes, when you knew that Carlisle had promised her that he would change her himself since you were being so resistant?' She tossed her head and pulled his face back around to her yet again. "Edward, I knew you were a masochist, but this defies everything. This makes no sense whatsoever."

"Maybe not to you," he retorted sharply.

"Well, thank God your baser instincts prevailed, and you didn't just let her die out of some misbegotten fear that you were taking away her soul!" she said fiercely, almost yelling.

I didn't get it. I knew Bella wanted to be one of them, but I assumed Edward was encouraging her, even pressuring her. I had worried that he might force her into it; that she might lose her nerve but he would go ahead with it. My head was spinning from these new revelations. It sounded as though he'd fought Bella and his entire family to keep her human. How could that be? And again, why?

He and his sister glared at each other. All this time, Bella had been writhing, moaning and screaming alternately, but now she lapsed into another moment of peace.

"I know you don't think I'm capable of deep thought," Rosalie's voice had a sarcastic edge. "But explain to me again why it is that you think we've lost our souls, because frankly, Edward, I think you're not seeing the forest for the trees."

"We're monsters, Rosalie. We are not human; there is nothing redeemable about us." His tone was bleak and drained of all emotion.

Monsters. Yes, I knew a thing or two about feeling less than human myself.

She sighed. "Edward." She seemed to wait for him to look at her before she went on. "Edward, what exactly do you think a soul is? Isn't it the part of you that makes you who you are? Isn't it what gives you emotions and memories and the ability to reason and make choices? How could you possibly feel the love you have for Bella or for any of us for that matter, if you had no soul, Edward? How could you have listened to Carlisle, ignored your bloodlust instincts and made the choice to feed from the same source, if not the same manner, as humans do? Especially you, Edward, who made that choice, wavered and then came back?" She tossed her hair back and plunged on. "Unlike Carlisle, I don't know if there is an afterlife for us, maybe we are damned in that respect. But, I don't think it's because we've lost our souls. How can it be that we're not redeemable? Our family has made choices that were open to others of our kind; the others just made different choices. Why would we make these very hard choices if we're just soulless monsters with no possibility of redemption or moral thought?"

He shook his head, staring down at his hands. "I know we've made choices, and God knows I'm aware that we have the ability to experience love and emotions and distinguish between right and wrong. But, at base, we're still monsters."

"So are humans, Edward," she murmured. "You think every individual doesn't have to fight his or her baser instincts and constantly make moral choices as they navigate their lives?"

He just stared at her, his expression unreadable.

"Listen, I overheard Bella telling Alice what you said to her when she found you in Volterra. Bella's right, Edward: deep down, you're not convinced that your soul is gone. Don't let your feelings of guilt about how this all came about to wear you down. You'll need to be strong for her; she'll have a lot to learn. There will be hard choices to make, harder than she's ever dreamed. Her family . . . .," she shook her head ruefully.

"Yes, we'll have to think how to handle that," he said.

Rosalie nodded and stood up. She watched Bella calling out to him, grasping hard on his hands, trying so hard to focus her eyes on him.

"Hang in there, it can't be long now," she whispered. She bent down and kissed his cheek so fast I almost missed it. She swept from the room quickly, throwing a significant glare at me as she left. That was unnecessary.

To say I was floored was an understatement. My mind was reeling from what I'd just learned. Still, Edward made no move to look my way, and so he and I continued to sit in silence. Well, silence punctuated by agonizing screams of unendurable pain and suffering. Not really silence then, but with a cold hard wall between us that was crumbling fast but still hard to scale, hard to tear down.

Deep in the night, I was dozing but vaguely aware that one of the others was sitting in the armchair next to the bed. I picked up on a voice I hadn't heard yet much – I thought I remembered his name was Jasper. They were talking in low voices in that rapid manner that was so hard for me to catch, but I'd gotten better over the last day at picking up their conversation.

"Of course this could have happened anyway," Edward muttered, clearly irritated.

"Not like this. If we'd never left, she wouldn't have become such good friends with that one. He wouldn't have such a personal stake in her life." I didn't need to open my eyes to know Jasper meant me. I tensed though as I began to remember Bella's broken state, her pallor and lifelessness, her utter fragility, when she'd first come to visit me that January day over a year ago.

I tried to take a deep calming breath without being too obvious about it. "Yeah, and you left because she was just human, because she wasn't good enough for you," I thought, angrily exhaling through my nose as I remembered Bella's lifeless, dejected state.

"Don't try to make this your fault too," Edward retorted. "You've tried to shoulder enough blame about the separation as is . . . ."

"No, I don't think I'm to blame for the separation so much, even if I was the triggering cause of your decision at that time. We all tried to tell you it wasn't the right solution though," Jasper interjected.

"I know Jasper, but none of you understood any better than I did that she wasn't going to move on with her life. I thought she would get over it; that she would have a normal human reaction – she'd grieve for a bit and then move on with her life. Even if you all thought I was making the wrong decision, it wasn't because you understood the depth of Bella's feelings any better than I did. Not even Alice could have predicted . . . .," he trailed off.

"You told Alice not to look though," Jasper countered. "And you were so bound that you were all wrong for Bella that I'm not sure you would have listened anyway. And yet you were so completely miserable. It was horrible to watch, Edward."

"I know. But, I had to try. I didn't want this for her, not ever," he whispered. "If she could have been happy with him, no matter what it did to me, that's what I would have wanted. I only wanted her to have normalcy and happiness."

"But she wanted this, Edward. It's time you started respecting her decision. Bella knows her own mind and her own heart, and I think she understood fully what she was asking for." Jasper sighed and stood up in a fluid motion.

Edward looked up at him, nodded briefly but made no reply.

I suddenly realized that I was clenching my fists tightly and breathing erratically. Edward had made them both miserable by leaving her, but he'd acted out of good motivations. "He would have rather seen Bella with me?" Suddenly I remembered how he'd seemed so sincere when he'd thanked me for keeping Bella alive. At the time, I thought he was merely a very good actor. "Could he really have meant what he said? Did he mean what he'd said just now, that he would have rather seen her happy with me and human than for her to become one of them?"

It was near dawn on Monday when one of the periods of respite from the pain seemed to go on much longer than usual, and he began to stroke her hair back from her face, squeezing her hand tightly. At last she opened her eyes and seemed to truly focus for the first time in days. Her eyes were bright red. Blood red.

"Edward," she whispered. Her voice was cracked and hoarse. "Edward, I think it's over now." She smiled tentatively.

He helped her sit up against the pillows, and she reached her arms out to him. They murmured something to each other that I didn't catch; they were both talking in that low, rapid manner now. She took his face in her hands and kissed him. They pulled apart, and then . . . he went completely and thoroughly to pieces in her arms. He was shaking convulsively, racked with gut-wrenching sobs.

"It's all right, Edward; shhhhhhh, sweetheart." She was rocking him, murmuring a steady stream of endearments, running her fingers through his hair.

Carlisle must have realized that it was over for he was suddenly there, sitting on the edge of the bed. "He's done in, you know," he told Bella. "Seeing you in such unceasing and tremendous pain has just about killed him; he could bear anything but that."

"I know," she whispered hoarsely. She hugged him tighter. Her expression was both anxious and confused as she met Carlisle's gaze. I was horrified by her red eyes, but pleased that I could see her expressions, despite the unnerving eye color.

"He'll be all right," he assured her. "And how are you? Your emotions are probably very haywire right now, yes?"

She nodded, but her expression remained bewildered. She was still whispering endearments to Edward and rubbing his back, but she shook her head at Carlisle. "I don't understand. I know what's happened, but I don't know why. I don't remember what happened. Edward wanted me to marry him before . . . he wouldn't have done it this way unless . . . .was I dying?" She suddenly gave a little start. "Oh! They were fighting . . . I thought Jacob was going to kill him."

"Yes, you jumped in the middle and took a serious blow. You were losing a lot of blood. Edward didn't have another choice."

"There was a lot of blood and . . . ."

Carlisle nodded. "Yes, I know what you're thinking. I don't know any of us who could have resisted all that strong fresh blood flowing so freely, especially taking into account what a particular temptation your blood is to him." He squeezed Edward's shoulder briefly. "He loves you completely, Bella."

I was again flabbergasted. Would these revelations never end? "Blood wasn't blood to them? There were differences? And Bella's blood was particularly alluring to him and yet he had fallen in love with her?" I didn't understand any of it.

"The others are anxious to see you too, you know," Carlisle said at last. "Is that okay, Edward?"

Edward turned slowly to Carlisle and took a deep ragged breath before nodding. "Yes, they should come in."

Alice sprang into the room the second Carlisle opened the door and ran immediately to Edward, hugging him tightly. "I told you it would all be okay," she said fiercely, before locking Bella into a tight embrace. Alice and Edward exchanged a long look. Bella caressed his face and said, "And I told you that you should bet on Alice." At that, he grinned at them both, and the other members of his family who had clustered around the bed joined in the laughter.

It wasn't until the others had all drifted away some time later that Edward said quietly, "There's someone else who's been waiting a long time to see you, Bella." He beckoned to me, and I rose stiffly from my chair in the corner, walking slowly toward them. Edward put up a warning hand when I was a few feet away from the edge of the bed. I cast him a quizzical look.

"She's thirsty, very thirsty. I would give the two of you some privacy, but I think I better stick around. To protect you from her for once." Suddenly, he grinned, and I couldn't help cracking a smile in response.

But as I met Bella's eyes, my smile vanished. For all I'd seen and heard over the last couple of days, there was no doubt in my mind that I'd lost my best friend. She was now my sworn enemy. Or . . . was she?

"Jake." Her voice was no longer hoarse; it had a rich tenor that was completely her, even for all its newness. "I'm glad you were here."

So, she had known I was here. My heart swelled in response to her words.

"Bella . . . I never wanted this to happen, you know that. But . . . but I can see how happy you'll be, I can see how much they all love you. I can see how much Edward loves you." I was surprised at how natural it felt to say his name, even as I realized that it was the first time I'd ever said his given name out loud.

I paused awkwardly and then turned to meet Edward's eyes. "Over the last few days, I've seen how much you love Bella. And now I think I also understand why she loves you so much."

Edward nodded and with a motion that was somehow elegantly fluid but tentative nonetheless, he held out his hand. "I understand so much more too," he said quietly, and for the first time, it dawned on me that Edward had heard every thought I'd had since I'd come into the meadow two days ago. The unceasing anxiety about Bella had driven the knowledge of his mind-reading ability from my thoughts. But now I realized all he must have heard. My jealousy of his relationship with Bella. My worries about Bella. My remonstrances against myself for provoking the fight and for being so reckless that I let her get wounded. My gradual realization that the vampires were people, had names and experienced human emotions. My growing respect for the commitment he had to Bella and how he had fought so hard against her casting aside her humanity for his sake. He had heard all my raw, uncensored thoughts, and I suddenly felt very vulnerable as I met his gaze.

He smiled at me with warmth, and I sighed, shaking his hand quickly and nodding at Bella. "Be happy, Bels," I whispered.

My hand was on the doorknob when I heard her quiet voice. "I'll see you again before we leave, Jacob."

It was mid-day on Thursday when I heard her voice again, so familiar and yet so different, on the phone. "Can you come to Charlie's house this evening?"

When I arrived at Charlie's house, I found them on the back porch. Though I hadn't expected it, my body stiffened immediately in response as they moved closer out of the shadows. The intervening time since Bella's change, spent out of the constant company of vampires, apparently caused my instincts to reassert themselves. I took deep calming breaths and mentally focused on fighting my urge to transform.

As they moved into the glow cast from the porch light, I could see immediately how very changed Bella was. Her beauty was magnified but in an understated way. The physical changes, apart from the eye color, were really somewhat subtle. What I noticed most was the fluid grace with which she moved, in sync with him. But when I focused on her expression more closely, I decided that the most profound change was really more emotional than physical, strange as that seemed.

"Thanks for coming, Jake," she whispered quietly.

"Charlie's back day after tomorrow, isn't he?"

She nodded. "We came to say good-bye to the house and pick up my things."

My stomach contracted as I thought of what Charlie would feel when he came home to an empty house. "Are you leaving him any sort of letter?" I asked.

"I've left him a letter that tells him that Edward and I were married in Seattle on Monday and that we've left with Edward's family. I can't say much more than that. If anyone finds the letter or does any checking around, the implication is that we would simply disappear, not have any more contact with either of my parents. But, I can't bear to hurt them like that, Jacob." She paused and the pain was evident in her eyes. "We were thinking that actually you could reveal some of the true story to Charlie, discreetly of course. You aren't bound by the laws set by our kind that prevent us from being completely truthful, and now since the Treaty is broken, you are no longer bound by it either. You could at least let him know that I'm safe and that I'm happy."

I turned my gaze to the forest behind the house, thinking. I could, in theory, give Charlie and Renee some peace-of-mind, but in so doing, I would in all likelihood have to reveal secrets of my own. I would have to risk Charlie's anger, his fear, his disbelief, perhaps even his certainty that I had lost my mind. Of course, if Charlie confronted Billy, my father would stand by my story, even if he felt compelled to take my actions up with the Council. And, in the end, what could the Council really do? Force me to leave La Push? That wasn't maybe a bad option. My brothers, on the other hand, were a different matter. I was bound tightly to them all, and they would view this breach much more seriously. Of course, if Charlie believed me, if I could convince him with details he'd surely noticed himself, even if he couldn't piece them together . . . perhaps no one would need to know. No, I argued with myself at once, my brothers would know. But, I'm the Alpha, the leader.

At last I sighed and turned to face them. "I'll tell him as much as I can. I'll make sure that he knows that you're happy, Bella." I glanced at the sparkling ring on her finger and smiled. "Hey, don't they have waiting periods and blood tests and all that for a marriage license?"

"Emmett took care of all the documentation while I was changing; it's perfectly legal," she assured me. Then, she grinned. "Alice arranged the ceremony. She even got me some bright blue contact lenses, so that my eyes looked more violet than red."

I laughed, surprising myself with how natural it sounded.

"Thanks, Jacob," she said simply.

Edward's arm was twined lightly around her waist, and he smiled at me. Then, his expression grew more somber. "As Bella mentioned, there may be some of our kind checking around before too long . . . or years from now, it's hard to say. You should share that with your brothers. None of them would be likely stay in the area, but you can expect them to come at some point."

"Don't worry, we'll watch out for Charlie too," I assured Bella, reading the worry in her eyes immediately.

"Thanks, Jake. Take care of him for me."

"I will." I smiled. "Be happy, Bella."

"I am," she replied and the look she exchanged with Edward was charged with such intensity and intimacy that I instinctively looked away.

Suddenly, I felt I would suffocate from the overpowering scent of my enemy as my best friend pressed cool marble lips against my cheek. There was a sudden waft of cold air, and when I opened my eyes, I was alone.

What I saw . . . . was love. That was what I told my brothers in Sam's kitchen at the end of my tale on that morning many years ago.

And love was what I remembered now whenever I thought of them. Love was what I thought of as I drove to Charlie's house for a chat and maybe a fish fry. Wherever Edward and Bella were in this world, I knew in my heart that she was surrounded by love.

And that love was all I had ever wanted for her.