Title: Cliff Diving
Winter Ashby (rosweldrmr)
Twilight Series © Stephenie Meyer
Time Line: Post Twilight, New Moon Cliff Diving Chapter. This picks up right after Bella thinks she's died.
Summary: A brush with death that comes not from mythical monsters, but by Bella's own hands is a wake-up call. For her and for Jacob. (Bella & Jacob)
Authors Notes: Honestly, this all started off as a joke in an LJ post. As you can see, it's gotten WAY out of hand. Oh well. I hope you like it.

I was dead. I knew this because I'd seen Edward, his beautiful, angel face. And I was completely positive that he'd come to take me to the next life, whatever that might be. I didn't know what to expect as I opened my eyes, but it certainly wasn't Jacob Black's face, pressing his lips firmly over mine.

But that's exactly what I did see. I wanted to scream, or pull away. But at that moment, I could feel a swell of water rush up from my lungs as Jacob pulled away. My mouth was still warm where out lips met, but I was not too preoccupied with the burning in my throat to pay much attention to that. I spit up the water, warm from my lungs, and gagged.

I was confused. My head felt like it was spinning wildly. And I was aware that there was a searing pain running the length of my back. I looked up at him, unable to speak and watched as the tears pooled in his big, black eyes.

"Bella." He breathed my name, just like he'd breathed new life into me. I shivered then, aware that I was sopping wet and that the wind was slicing my cheeks to shreds.

"What..?" I began feebly, unable to make coherent sentences, or thoughts for that matter. I was afraid that the gaping hole in my chest would rear any second now, with the memory of Edward's chiseled profile so resent in my mind. But nothing came. There was no hole, just the pain in my throat and back.

"Shhh." Jacob soothed me and pulled me into his arms. His chest was bare, and where it touched my skin, it burned. I ached to be warm again. It'd been so long since I could remember being this warm. It reminded me of Phoenix, and so long ago when I wanted gravel to crunch under my boots instead of dark, green moss. That was before Forks became home. Before Edward, before this life even began. I hadn't realized I'd missed it that much until I was trapped in Jacob's arms, feeling the feux heat of this sun-like-body-heat radiate through me.

My own, personal sun. I remember thinking that about Jacob the day I found the meadow. The image of the russet-colored wolf blazed through my mind, and I clung to him all the more then. "Jacob." I sobbed into his arms. I didn't even know why I was crying anymore. I was tired. Tired of pretending that I wasn't broken, or that I was normal, whatever that meant.

"It's okay now, Bells. You're safe." He assured me, over and over. His huge hands were pawing at my hair, and he was running his thick fingers through my tangled strands with a strange kind of grace that I was still trying to get used to. He was so different, so changed now from the boy I was reunited with on this very beach so long ago.

And it was true, I was safe. He made me feel safe. "How did you find me?" My throat burned and my voice was horse, like I'd been screaming for days on end.

"I heard you scream." He spoke into my hair; I could tell he was smelling me. "You scared me." He sounded broken then, tiny. I knew it couldn't be. Jacob was huge now, a formidable site, for sure. But when he spoke so softly into my ear, it was easy to forget what he was. It was easier to love him.

"I jumped." I told him, weakly, still clinging to him. He stood up, scooping me in his arms and held me like I was a child across the vast plane of his chest. His beautiful russet skin was like a stain against the gray beach.

"I know." His voice was deep and ragged. "That's why you scared me." He was moving, and I didn't bother to look where we were going. It didn't matter. All I knew was that when the water was rushing into my lungs, scorching my stomach, and drowning me, I was happy.

"I'm sorry." I apologized through tears because I'd been so foolish. I almost lost him. And all for what? So I could hear his voice again? I was risking my life so I could cheat and fulfill delusions that only existed in my shattered mind. I felt like an idiot, because that's what I'd been.

"Please..." his voice was thick and stretched. It rumbled his chest and I felt my cheek vibrate with his words. "Please don't do that again. I don't know what I'd..." but he stopped himself. He sounded like he had that night he tried to tell me what he really was. It sounded like he was choking. "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you, Bella."

I realized then, why he was chocking. It was because he was worried about me. He loved me, I reminded myself as I let my head rest pleasantly against his chest. "I won't..." I didn't need to finish the sentence; he was already nodding his head.

"I'll always protect you Bella, from anything, from everything." And I knew he was telling the truth. When he made a promise, he kept it. Not like him.

Edward. My mind said his name, and I winced, expecting the pain I like before. But, again, just like on the beach, it didn't come. Jacob tightened his grip on me, but didn't say anything. It was like seeing Edward in what I thought was my final moments had cured me of him. It was like Edward was some kind of disease, and the freezing, churning ocean tore the last vestige of him from me.

I wanted to feel like I'd been robbed, like it wasn't fair to give me one, last, prefect glimpse of him just to have him taken away. But then another thought came to mind. Perhaps it wasn't the ocean that stole him from me. Maybe dying, short-lived as it was, showed me something I wasn't ready to see before.

I wasn't ready to die yet. Not in the ocean, not by evil, rogue vampires, not even to become a vampire and live for an eternity with Edward.

It was getting easier and easier to think his name without performing the habit of wincing or wrapping my arm around my torso because I couldn't breath. I found, with Jacob, I didn't need to die inside every time I thought about losing Edward.

A part of me knew he wasn't really gone forever. And I didn't know how I felt about that. But another part of me knew that I wanted to live. I wanted to go to school, and see Charlie and Renee be happy. I wanted to visit Jacksonville and have my own apartment someday. I wanted to have kids and a life. That was something Edward could never give me. There were so many things I wanted, and I was kidding myself to think that Edward would make up for all that.

Maybe that's why he left. Because he knew that someday, if he had turned me, I would have resented him for it. I would have blamed him for taking me away from my family and my life. I still loved him. I think I always would. But somehow, it was different. The love had shifted in the wake of my brush with death.

I didn't want to be cold. I wanted the warmth. And as the wind was blowing past my face, I fell asleep in Jacob's arms thinking about Jacob's smile. A smile I hadn't seen in a long time.


When I woke up, I was lying in Jacob's bed. I recognized the tiny, closet-sized room immediately. I looked around for Jacob; half expecting to see him crouched in the corner of the room, looming in the twilight. But he wasn't anywhere to be seen.

I wondered how long I'd been asleep. I found I was in new clothes. I touched the huge gray shirt, tentatively. And in a moment of pure clarity, I knew that I was wearing Jacob's clothes, and that he had been the one who put them on me. Who else would have done it? Billy? Surely not.

I gasped, and pulled the quilt of his head up to my ears so the heat of my blush wouldn't burn in the dwindling daylight. I was vaguely aware that it was the first time I'd blushed like that in a long, long time.

"Bella?" A familiar voice called from the hall. He was standing just outside, probably listening with those wolf-ears.

"Jacob Black!" I scrunched my face up into my best imitation of my mother and used a reprimanding tone of voice.

He slinked though the door, barely even touching a finger as the door swung open to admit him. He was staring intently at his palms, and the balls of his cheeks were glowing a deep maroon. He was still wearing no shirt, as he so often did these days. And the sight of him, framed in the door way was breathtaking.

"You didn't!?" I half-demanded, half-begged.

"You were soaking wet!" he defended himself with a sheepish look.

"How could you?" I was beginning to feel my face burn with all the blood that rushed to my cheeks.

He gave me a fleeting kind of smile that made my stomach immediately flip. Well, this is new.

He was repressing a laugh. "It's good to see you blush again. I was beginning to think you'd forgotten how."

"Oh." I promptly forgot, temporarily, about him undressing me while I was unconscious. He had saved my life after all. "Well, I guess it has been a while."

"Bella," he began and slid gently onto the tiny mattress with a silent, elegant kind of motion. It was unnerving, and at the same time, incredible comforting. I tried not to think about that. "You can't keep doing this to yourself. I know why you wanted to build the bikes, and why you wanted to go cliff-diving." He still looked at his gianormous hands without meeting my gaze.

Suddenly I was very cold, and scooted closer to him to be warmer. I wondered if he noticed. "You do?" I was whispering now, ashamed that he might really know what I was thinking. He was so attentive to me, always noticed things that no one else seemed to. I wondered if he really knew about the hallucinations.

"It's because of him." He snarled the pronoun, and my heart gave another curious little jump, like my stomach had done when he smiled at me from the doorway.

"You can say his name." I told him quietly. It was the only way I could think of to tell him, to show him that it was different now, that I was different now. I wanted, so desperately, to show Jacob that he was more than just a protector. I couldn't pinpoint when it'd happened. But somewhere between the motorcycles and the cliff, he became much more to me that I knew he could.

Jacob didn't say anything, at first. He just sat there, still looking at his hands, red cheeks, breathing heavily. "You jumped because of Edward. You stopped trying to swim for the surface because of Edward. You almost died, because of Edward." He let the words roll of his tongue, almost like he'd wanted to say these things for a long time.

"Yes." I croaked.

"Bella!" He roared and stood. His hands were fisted at his sides and his arms shook, with fury. "How could you do this!? How could you let him, what he is…" He began to pace, no longer looking at me.

I reached out a hand to steady his movement, slowly. I laid a finger on his wrist and watched as all the pent-up anger just drained away from his face. And for an instant, it was like I had the old Jacob back. The one with soft eyes and young features. Not the man who shred his clothes and phased into a monster to protect me. "I'm sorry Jake." I met his eyes tentatively and waited for him.

He sighed, heavily, and sunk unto the bed. He wrapped his hand over mine and held it as we sat together in silence for a moment. "Bella, I told you that I'd never hurt you." It sounded like a question, like there was a giant 'but' hanging in the air.

"Yes?" I prodded gently as I ran my hand up the taunt muscles of his back. He released my hand, and I leaned against his back. I cradled my face where his neck met with his broad shoulders. And I pulled my arms around his torso. He relaxed against me.

"But, if you'll forgive me, I think I need to break that promise now." He voice was low and rumbled my chest against his back. It was then that I realized I wasn't wearing a bra under his thick gray shirt. He's going to pay for that.

I didn't answer, not in words. But I nodded, slightly, rubbing my cheek up and down against his. His face was warm, and I could feel the hair on his face scrap against my cheek. It felt lovely. Edward was always so smooth, like marble. But feeling the rough stubble of a teenage boy, made me realize what I'd been missing all that time. I thought of my hand locked in his, and I realized that I'd missed out on rough hands and gritty boots. I'd missed out on dirty hair and oily clothes. I'd missed out on what it was like to be an eighteen-year-old. And Jacob gave me that.

Even if he was a monster of mythic proportion, he was still mortal, and still human. If only for parts of the day when he was calm.

"Bella, he…" Jacob paused and I ran a hand up and down his bare arm. This seemed to encourage him as he continued. "Edward left you. I know that's not fair to throw at you, and I shouldn't say anything because it's none of my business, but it doesn't change the fact that it's true. And you can't live the rest of your life waiting for him to come back. Or acting recklessly, in hopes that he'll come to the rescue. He's gone now. For good or bad, and you're just going to have to learn to live with it."

I'd never heard him speak so candidly to be before, especially not about Edward. He was the one who knew I didn't, couldn't talk about it. But I knew that hauling my lifeless corpse from the crashing waves was probably a pretty big wake-up call for him as well.

"I know." I leaned in over his shoulder and whispered. "I know Edward's gone," it didn't hurt to say his name at all, "and I know what I did was stupid. Besides, I wasn't waiting for him to come and rescue me. Why would I need him," I spoke so quietly now that my raspy voice was barely audible, even to me, but I knew Jacob would hear me, "when I have you to come to my rescue."

He turned his head sharply at this, and my face being so close to his, that my lips grazed over the heated skin of his cheek until they touched the corner of his mouth. I didn't move. I couldn't.

There was a swarm of butterflies in my stomach that erupted as the full pout of his lovely, soft lips came into contact with mine. It was so unlike anything else I'd ever felt before. I was used to stone-cold lips and limits. But this, heated, frantic kind of clawing in my belly was entirely new.

He moved very slowly, even for a human. It started with his torso and then followed by his hips as he tucked his legs underneath himself. He turned toward me, into the mistaken kiss. I expect he was giving me the chance to pull away, to stop him.

But if that's what he was waiting for, then he was going to be very disappointed.

I reached to touch the side of his face as he made a full one-eighty to face me now. I let my eyes slip closed as he wrapped his huge arms around me.

And then, I was falling. Tilting backwards and sideways, trying to grab at him and pull him closer. My hands wound their way up to run through his short hair and down over his ears. I pinched one of his earlobes between my thumb and forefinger and was rewarded with the most devastatingly perfect rumble I'd ever heard.

It was rich and deep. And it made my insides ache in a way that I'd never felt before. Edward never let it get this far. As Jacob slipped his tongue over my lips I might have gasped, or arched against him, I wasn't sure.

But the next thing I new, I was lying flat on my back with a heavy, comforting weight pinning me to the mattress. And his hands were everywhere, wandering through my hair, running down my arms, timidly running along a sliver of my expose stomach.

I was burning up, from the inside out. Where he touched me, but even more so where he didn't touch me. I ached for him hot skin to swelter the nearly-suffocating need that permeated through every cell in my body.

He scraped his hands down my sides, wracking me with tremors. And I didn't know if I wanted to pull away and ask him to do it again, or bury my mouth in his neck and nibble at skin. I wondered if he would taste like anything, salty probably, from the ocean and dried sweat.

But he didn't break the kiss, not even as I gave another shudder and involuntarily thrust my hips against his. He seemed to hiss at this, through gritted teeth. And that's when he finally pulled away, leaving me unfulfilled.

We both panted, but still, he hovered over him, not bother to get off me. I didn't object as I watched his smoldering eyes trace over the features of my face. I must look like a mess, hair in a tangled knot, clothes rumpled and too big, a thin sheen of sweat on my arms and legs and a thick blush coloring my cheeks. I was probably a blotchy mess.

Jacob was looking at me, with those deep, dark eyes and reached out to run a warm hand over my cheek. He looked even bigger leaning over me. "You're beautiful." And he sounded so sincere that I didn't even bother correcting him. But then he crinkled his face, like he tasted something bad. "Stupid though."

"What?" I scoffed.

"What took you so long?" He caressed my cheek and for the first time in what seemed like forever; I felt the strange twinge of something deep in my chest. When I realized what it was, and how long it'd been since I'd experienced it, it almost knocked the wind out of me. I was happy.

"I guess I just needed a nice, long dip in the ocean to clear my mind." I teased, and I could tell he didn't like thinking about it. I must have really scared him.

He chuckled though, a sound I hadn't heard in a long, long time. It was like sweet music to my ears. "You know, controlling myself is getting a lot easier." And for once, I knew that the man in such close proximity to me wasn't referring to holding himself back from killing me. But still, the sense of déjà vu that swept over me as I imagined the monster he would always be burdened with was strong. "I think it's because I've got it on both sides of the family, you know?" It wasn't really a question, I knew that much. But I nodded my head anyway.

"I'm glad." I said as I reached a hand up and traced the line of his brow. It was still hard though, I knew it always would be, being a magnet for monsters. But somehow, with Jacob it didn't feel quite so ominous, or foreboding. He was still human, mostly. And he would still live a normal lifespan. True, he could heal faster, jump higher, hear better, and so on… but he wasn't immortal. It was that one, eternal difference that made Jacob different from Edward like night and day.

"You look tired." He commented lightly as he looked down at me. And even though I didn't want to compare, there was a part of me that supplied the useless information that Edward would have just said 'You're tired.' I liked that Jacob saw me, that he noticed me, he looked for small details and not just replied on some otherworldly kind of 'ability.'

"Near death experiences will do that to you I guess." it wasn't the first time I'd said it, and a part of me shook to realize that it probably wouldn't be my last.

"Rest now. I'll be here to protect you." He said as he moved to the side and gracefully lay next to me. He gently kissed my eyes shut as he pulled me flush against his chest and wrapped his warm arms around me.

I sighed, content. This is what I'd been missing because I was too scared to move on, too much of a coward to let myself admit that Jacob had become so much more than just a friend. That searing kiss had proved it all. I wasn't going to say that I was in love with him. It was too soon for that, and I'd had a bad experience with that the first time. But one thing was for sure, as Jacob entwined his legs with mine, I was happy he'd been so persistent.