I sat, looking at Bella, slumped against my shoulder, eyes closed, sleeping steadily, deep sleep. We were on the couch in my house, and I had just woken up, Billy was asleep, and Charlie was, well, I really don't know. Bella had seemed so exhausted I didn't want her driving home, so she spent the night here, on the couch. She wouldn't take my bed. But I didn't want to leave her alone. She was...so fragile. So breakable, after what she did yesterday, so sad...
I was again, so mad at the bloodsucker who made her life so hard. If he had just stayed in Alaska or wherever, where he belonged, everything would be fine, and Bella would actually be happy, fully happy, and no bad memories, no threat of him coming back, or not.
She stirred; she leaned heavily on my arm. I stroked her soft brown hair, wishing she could just forget about him. Ever since, well, yesterday, she had been so deep in her own head, her own thoughts, probably about him. I wonder if she regretted not going back to him, staying with him while she had the chance. But I couldn't say I regretted what she did.
"Jake?" A sleepy mumble, cool breath on my bare arm.
"Hm?" I whispered. She picked up her head, looked around, sleepy eyes half-closed. She rubbed them. "Wha--"
"It's okay," I said, pulled her closer.
"I have to--" She muttered, looked around, and stumbled off to the bathroom. I sighed, got up and peered into our near-empty fridge, frowning. My huge appetite had really, well, emptied out the fridge. And cupboards. And counter. At least there was some bread, a few eggs.
I felt cool hands on my back, even through my shirt, and turned around. Bella stood there, smiling at me, as if sadly. I looked at her warily, raised my eyebrows. She lowered her eyes. "Jake, I'm not going to--" She stopped, either afraid to say it or just not knowing what to say.
"Shh. It's okay." I leaned down, she leaned up, and I kissed her, slowly, her cold lips moving with mine and I couldn't doubt her decision. Her breath tickled my face, like the air after it snowed. She pulled away. Looked over my shoulder. Raised her eyebrows. Grinned, I don't know what at.
I sighed, looking at the entire lack of food. "Sorry, Bells. We don't exactly have much food..." She shook her head, put the bread in the toaster. She stared at it, after she put it in, for a few moments, then turned back to me. There was a look on her face, incomprehensible, but it scared me, just a little. She smiled, a little too brightly, or was I just paranoid? and said, "Butter?"
"Yeah. We have some...I think." We had a little, luckily.
The toaster dinged and I took it out. Another plus to this whole werewolf thing is that I never got burned. I handled the toast out of the toaster and it didn't feel any different from the the untoasted bread. I sat down across from Bella, buttered a piece of toast and gave it to her. She smiled and started eating, small bites, slowly. I buttered one for myself and ate it, with significantly bigger bites.
"This is nice," she said quietly.
"What is?" I asked.
She smiled sadly at me. "Eating."
I raised my eyebrows.
"With you," she said simply, and I understood. She couldn't eat with that bloodsucker of hers. I felt a rush of gratitude that I could, well, eat. As weird as that sounds.
"Whenever I ate he just stared at me. It was...I felt rushed, I had to...hurry, so I didn't bore him. I hated it. That was one thing I hated. I felt like such a...for eating cereal while he went and conquered big mountain lions, grizzlies..." She trailed off, staring into the space between me and her eyes. "He said he didn't mind, but...oh, Jake. I'm so glad you're human."
She looked up and smiled at me, really, truly, brightly. I froze.
The smile faded. "Oops." She said. Frowned. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Jake! That was so insensitive of me...I'm sorry." She looked close to tears. See what I mean, about her being fragile?
"It's really okay, Bells. I know I...well, I...looks can be deceiving." She stared at me for a minute then laughed. I realized what I had said, smiled, laughed with her.
"You don't exactly look like a werewolf," she tried, but gave up and grinned.
We ate in silence after that, but it wasn't awkward silence, it was just, well, I can't say happy silence, but content would have to do.
Until I realized that Bella's head was hung down, over her plate, and hot tears were falling, dripping down onto the table, silently, quietly.
I leaned forward. "Bella?" I asked hesitantly. She sniffed, didn't look up. I got up, and picked her up easily, set her down standing. She didn't resist. I put my arms around her, pulled her close. She flopped against my chest, the sobs coming fast but still quietly, tears flowing swiftly.
The memories came so swiftly, so fast...I just let them overtake me, to tired to fight. I didn't even notice I was crying until the tears dropped down in front of my eyes, dripped down my cheeks. Jacob noticed, of course, and pulled me up. I leaned against his chest, too sick of it to stop myself from doing this and hurting him. I had told myself I would keep it in until I was alone, not let Jake see me like this. I knew it would hurt him, as much as he didn't let it show. He was much too good for me, just holding me when I needed it, like this, like then.
But it was true, what I had said to him, about eating with him. It was a new experience, and I liked it, more than I would have thought. But it brought back painful memories, cold hands and topaz eyes I didn't think I'd ever be rid of. Grizzlies..."It's my favorite..." Mountain lion...humor in his cool-warm eyes, watching me pour the cereal..."It's no irritated grizzly..." A small shake of the alabaster head, copper hair falling into golden eyes.
I leaned on Jacob and thought about Edward, and it struck me how wrong that was, how horrible I was to be doing this. I had to pull myself together, forget about him. I thought if it might have been better if I had chosen the other way, the other life. At least Jacob wouldn't have to see me like this. But Edward would. And I would. There was no way, there had to be compromises either way...I was glad how I had chosen, and there were no regrets, no wishes of otherwise.
I took a deep breath and tried to pull myself together. I looked up at him, he was solemn, sad, staring down at me.
"Sorry," I said, meaning it, deeply, fully.
He shook his head, smiled sadly.
"No...God, Jake, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't...shouldn't..."
"Do you think I'd rather your leech be comforting you? No, Bells, you did nothing wrong." His voice was quiet but intense. Except for love the wrong person. Along with the right one, which just makes everything worse.
I shook my head, looking down. He put his hand under my chin, tilted my head up, kissed my cheeks, his hot lips burning my skin, but in a good way, kissing my tears away, then his lips met mine and I kissed him too, and tried to forget about a certain person with ice-cold stone-hard lips. I was lost, almost lost, his warm hands were on my back, pulling me closer to him, I tangled my fingers in his soft black hair, breathing as much as I could, and his hot breath floated over my face.
A cough, slight and quiet, came from the hall right near us. Jacob jumped away from me, and I was stunned by the cold air rushing in between us. Billy sat in his wheelchair in the hall, looking at us sort of oddly, but then he just shook his head and wheeled past us into the kitchen.
"Jake, Did you eat everything?" he said in an exasperated tone. I looked away, towards the front door, and Charlie just had to be standing there with a purple face and complete silence. He opened his mouth a few times and nothing came out, and he just said, "Bella. We have to go. Outside. My car."
I hesitated, he said, "Now."
I looked at Jake. "Bye," I said, rolling my eyes.
He grinned and came over to me, put his hands on my face, but changed his mind at the last second, not daring to kiss me in front of Charlie. He just looked wistfully at me and said "Bye, Bells," and watched me leave.
I didn't want to face purple Charlie in the car, but I walked there anyway, slowly and careful not to trip on any protruding sticks or stones.
"Bella," Charlie said once I got into the car. His purple color had faded sightly, leaving an angry red. "I know Jacob is a very...nice boy, but sometimes you have to be a little careful, because he does wa--"
"Dad." I interrupted him, not wanting to hear the rest of his sentence. "In case you've forgotten I am eighteen, which means I am a legal adult and responsible for--well, me. If you don't like it, I can always move out." I said it a bit harshly, but really, it's not like I was doing anything...really.
He sighed, and I felt bad that I had threatened to move out on him. "Okay, Bella. But you are responsible for the consequences of your actions, and so is Jacob."
"Yes. We are. Exactly."
We are responsible for our actions, is what I thought when I felt Jacob's lips on mine, moving with mine in ways that I still can't get used to. No restrain, no closed-lips-tight-mouth-don't-touch-my-fangs. It was a new experience, like eating with him, together, just like that. All these new things...they weren't exactly new, I told myself. But seeing Edward again, letting him go, finally, fully, made me realize and appreciate it more, Jacob more. The life I had with Jacob and could never have with Edward more.
"Oh, Bella," Jacob's low husky voice drew me back to the present, as if I wasn't in it already. He pulled away from me, his hands still entangled in my hair, his palms on my cheeks. "I love you so much," he said, and kissed me again. I kissed him back, and his heat warmed me from the always-cold Forks air. I was glad we lived in Forks; his heat would be unbearable in Phoenix, or anywhere else for that matter.
A low wolf howl broke from the cool green forest, a little ways away, but never far in Forks.
"Dammit," Jacob mumbled, and pulled away from me. I groaned.
"I know, Bells, I know. Oh, God. Can't they just handle it without me?" He said the last part to himself, it seemed, almost. His hands released their hold on my hair, I reluctantly stepped away from his warm body.
"Do you know what it is?" I asked him.
"No," he sighed. "I can't...understand them. They don't mean anything. Just...telling me to hurry up and get over there," he said quickly as another, more impatient, it seemed, howl sounded, and another wolf joined the already existing one howling.
He took a step back, looked around. "I don't want to leave you if there's a leech around," he said worriedly.
"Jake..." I gestured to my car. "I can drive."
"That thing isn't going to go faster than a leech."
"Would yours?" He snorted, shook his head quickly so his hair flopped into his eyes. He pushed it away with his hand, impatiently. Deliberated, for a second. Another howl, this time closer, louder.
"It's really okay, Jake." He raised his eyebrows at me. "You sure?" He asked.
"Yes." I said firmly. "Just...be careful, okay?" I liked this about Jacob; he actually let me take care of myself. He trusted me with my own life.
"Why don't you go to Emily's?" He said suddenly. "It'll be safer there. Seth's probably patrolling around the rez."
"Sure," I said, and turned towards my car, put my hand on the rusty door-handle, was about to open it when Jacob grabbed my arm and pulled me into a strong bear hug. He let go of me, slowly.
"Bye, Bells. See you soon." He brought his lips quickly to mine, kissed me quickly, but firmly. Turned and disappeared into the forest faster than I would have thought possible. I sighed and got into my car, drove to Emily's.
It was a short drive, we had been close to the boundary line before. I pulled up by Sam and Emily's house, and Emily came out front, no doubt alerted by my roaring truck. Sam was a dark shadow blurring by her side, I heard a murmered "Be careful," on both sides, and he disappeared like Jacob.
Emily sighed, worry etched their lines in her already-scarred face. She turned to me, motioned me to come inside. I followed her to the kitchen, where she nervously prepared something.
"Do you know what it is?" I broke the silence.
"No," she said quietly. "Was it Jacob who...howled?"
"No...he was with me. I don't know who it was." She nodded, brought out a big bowl.
"What are you making?" I asked.
"Well...if this is, well, anything, the boys'll be hungry...better make something...muffins, probably." I smiled, remembering the first time of tasting Emily's muffins.
"Need help?" I asked.
"No, that's okay, I got it. Just sit down, or something..." I sat down in one of the kitchen chairs while Emily hurried around the kitchen.
A while passed; I don't know quite how much. Emily's muffins were browning in the oven, she was cleaning up the kitchen, getting a plate out. We had talked briefly, but nothing much--she was too worried with thoughts of Sam, me with thoughts of Jacob.
"At least Leah's out there," Emily said, smiling slightly. "No, wait--I didn't--" she stopped, mortified.
"Yeah. Yeah, I guess."
Just then, the door burst open and Sam came in. Emily ran over, "Are you okay? Sam?" rushing from her lips. He kissed her, and I looked away, shy at the blatant displays in front of me. But then Jacob stumbled in, blood dripping from his bare shoulder, and I forgot and ran to him.
He smiled tiredly at me. "Hi, Bells." I stared at him.
"Are you okay?" I asked quietly. He nodded shortly. Embry walked in, then Quil and Leah and all the rest. Emily sighed in relief. Jacob was the only one hurt.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Jake decided he could deal with two leeches on his own." Quil rolled his eyes at me. Jacob didn't say anything, collapsed into a chair. I leaned down, not much though. "Jake? Really, are you okay?" He nodded slowly, but I unclasped his hand from his shoulder. It was bleeding faintly, and Jacob tried to wipe the blood away with his already-bloody fingers.
"Jeez, Jake," Embry hovered over my shoulder.
"It must have been bad," I said. I knew how fast they healed. If he walked all the way here...
"I'm fine, Bells." He looked a bit pale, but fine other than that. Embry shook his head. "What?" I asked him.
He hesitated. "He didn't seem fine. I mean, being in his thoughts was just a bit hard." He stopped at Jacob's glare and "shut up."
I stared at Jacob, he smiled at me. "Don't listen to him. I'm fine." He grimaced.
"Jacob. Go wash it off," Emily said. Jacob stood and went to the kitchen. I followed him. He turned on the water, made a face when it hit his skin. I moved closer.
"Jake--" I stopped, unsure of what to say. I had almost had a heart attack when I saw him come in, all bloody. He turned to me, and his shoulder was all clean, hardly bleeding now.
He put his hands on either side of my face. "You okay?" he asked absurdly.
"Yes, I'm okay!" I said loudly. "You don't look too much like it, though. What happened?" He ignored my question and pulled my face closer to his and kissed me lightly.
"Jake?" I asked again.
He looked at me for a second, the down. "Like Quil said, I was fighting two of them and--well, it doesn't matter. I'm fine. So are you. That's what matters." I nodded, stood on my tiptoes and kissed him deeply again.
Retching sounds came from the doorway, and Jacob looked over, irritated, at Jared.
"You should not be talking," Jacob said, poking him in the chest on his way out and glaring at him, pulling me with him.
He pulled me past the milling werewolves and Emily and out the door, around the back, through some trees. I followed him, he stopped in the middle of the trees and pulled me to him, held me to him, just put his arms around me and held me.
"God, I love you, Bella. I understand how Sam feels, Jared...Quil. Maybe not Quil." He grinned. I froze. A horrible thought just occurred to me.
"Jake...you didn't...imprint with me...did you?"
He frowned. "No."
I groaned, put my head on his chest, not wanting to think about what my mind was forcing me to.
"Bella? What's wrong?"
"You didn't imprint with me."
"Yeah. So? I still love you. It doesn't matter." He wasn't getting it, and I was getting it too much.
"And if you do?"
"Imprint!" I almost yelled. He frowned. Looked down at me, his eyebrows shadowing his dark eyes. He was almost hard to look at. I couldn't believe I had made such an awful mistake. I was going to kill myself, hurt Jacob. Or maybe even not--maybe once he imprinted he wouldn't care I even existed. I pulled away, turned back towards where I thought Sam's house, and therefore my car, was. I thought a quick break was the best. Then I realized that was exactly what Edward thought, and what he did--well, not something I wanted Jacob to have to go through. No matter who he loves, choice or not.
"Bella! Wait," he ran after me, but I had already stopped. I didn't know what to do.
Jacob grabbed my arms and yanked me into a bear hug tighter than ever, didn't let go. I had to pull away to breathe, and he let go reluctantly, slowly, barely. "Bella. Don't even think that. Don't even--" He stared at me, agonized.
I guess my thoughts were clearly on my face. Jacob brought his lips to mine, kissed me roughly. I clung to him despite everything. When he finally pulled away he said, "Bella, I don't think that's an issue."
I stared, shocked. "Why not?" I asked.
"I just...how can I love anyone more than I love you?"
"Obviously you can," I said, looking away.
"Bella, don't be ridiculous."
"Ridiculous? Ridiculous?! I'm being ridiculous about something that'll kill me?" I could feel tears rising in my eyes, and my cheeks getting hot.
Jacob's face fell. "Bella, I'm serious. And plus, it's not like I'm going anywhere."
"But people come here!"
"Okay...but Bella. I just have a theory...Sam thought it was probable, I mean...it's practically like I imprinted with you. Only...a little slower, more gradual. The first time I saw you I did like you."
"The first time you saw me was when we were like ten," I said.
He grinned halfheartedly. "Bella, still...I don't think I'm going to imprint. I love you too much to."
"You say that and then..."
Jacob stepped closer to me and grabbed my arms which were at my sides. "Bella. I swear. I won't imprint."
"How can you say that? You'll see her, and then she'll just be everything..." It hurt to think about. "I don't want to be another Leah, Jake."
"Oh, Bells--" Jacob hugged me, tightly, but I could still breathe. I don't know how long we stayed like that, his hot arms around me.
I finally pulled away. Jake looked at me warily.
"Bella? Are you going to..." He trailed off, and I could see the effort it took him to keep his face calm and collected. "Are you going to leave?"
I shook my head. "No. I will, if you imprint. But it's useless to leave now. I don't want to...I know what it feels like." I looked down. And I was far too selfish to actually leave now anyways. "I don't want you to have to..." I didn't finish my sentence, knowing he'd know what I'd say.
Jake smiled, huge and happy. I grinned and he took my hand and led me back into the house.