Chapter Four

Jacob walked down the nearly deserted streets of La Push with his head down and hands shoved deep into his pockets. The last traces of sunlight were beginning to fade as he hastily headed back toward his home. He needed time to calm down, to think. And to decide what to do.

His mind was far away as the warm summer breeze blew across his face. Lost in thought, he barely noticed when a tiny figure collided with his legs. "Uncle Jake!" A small voice cried.

Jacob looked down, startled, to find Quil and Claire's four-year-old son, Isaac, clinging tightly to his legs. He had come to a stop in front of their house. Forcing a smile, Jacob reached down to ruffle the child's hair playfully. "Hey, kid! Where's your mom and dad?"

As if in answer to his question, Quil emerged from inside the house, his very pregnant wife following close behind him. "Isaac! Come back here! How many times do we have to tell you, it's dangerous to – Oh! Jake!" The usual smile returned to Quil's face at the sight of his friend.

"Jacob!" Claire smiled sweetly at him. "We weren't expecting you! Would you like to come in?"

"Well, uh… Actually, I was just heading home." Jacob muttered nervously, hoping he wouldn't offend her. He had watched Claire grow and change so much over the years; she had become something of a little sister to him– a little sister who was more than ten years older than him, physically, at least.

"Stay and play with me!" Isaac whined.

Jacob shook his head, smiling. "Not today… maybe tomorrow, as long as you're a good boy for your mommy."

Claire laughed and beckoned her son to her side. "You can play with Uncle Jake later… it's time for dinner."

Reluctantly, Isaac waved goodbye to Jacob and followed his mother inside. "See you later, Jake!" Claire called as she shut the door behind them.

Jacob stood in silence for a moment or two, kicking the dirt around at his feet. He really wanted to be alone, but he knew it would be rude to just leave his friend so suddenly. He took a deep breath. "So…" He said as casually as he could manage. "Claire looks like she's doing well."

"Yeah…" Quil replied, smiling slightly. "The doctor says any day now…"

Jacob stared at his friend for a long moment, marveling on how much everything had changed. Of the entire pack, Quil had been the last one to stop phasing. Sometimes Jacob wondered whether he was waiting for Claire, or simply enjoyed being a wolf too much to quit. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

It felt as though such little time had passed since then, and yet here Quil stood, a grown man, while his friend remained unchanged. But their physical appearance no longer mattered; they always looked older than their true ages anyway. For the past three decades, Jacob's driver's license had said he was twenty-three; Quil's currently put him at thirty-seven. Yet in truth, they were both nearly fifty years old.

"Jacob, what's wrong?" Quil's sigh broke the silence, awakening Jacob from his reverie.

He shrugged in reply. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do." His friend said firmly, crossing his arms. "Something's not right with you, I can tell." He surveyed him for a moment. "Jeez… you're so pale! You look like you've seen a ghost or something."

Jacob's eyes lowered toward the ground. "Something like that…" He muttered, his voice shaking slightly. "Only so much worse."

It took a moment for Quil to understand. He shook his head in disbelief, but the look in his friend's eyes confirmed his fears. "They're back?! You've got to be kidding me! There's no way… I can't believe that she, that Bella, would --"

"She's not Bella anymore." Jacob snarled, cutting him off. "And I can't believe it any more than you can."

"Well have you told Sam? Maybe he can get everyone together and we can –" The look his friend gave him prevented Quil from continuing.

"No, you can't… None of you can. I'm not letting you give up everything just for my sake." Jacob shook his head. "I can handle this."

"Well, depending on how long they plan to stay, we might not have a choice." Quil muttered. "The longer they stay here, the greater the risk that, well…"

"Yeah, I know!" Jacob snapped, beginning to lose his temper. The presence of vampires in the area was extremely dangerous, and it meant that La Push would once again need protection. And with only one wolf left, the time would soon come for more to join the pack. Jacob shuddered at the thought of one of his friends' children sharing his fate.

Quil sighed in frustration. "Well do you know why they're here?"

Jacob shook his head. "No clue; I didn't want to waste time talking to that… thing. She tried to suck me in, to make me remember how things used to be… but I didn't let her." He said proudly. "You know I'm stronger than that."

"Hmm…" Quil muttered, thinking. He had always really liked Bella, despite the unfavorable company she kept. But she had broken his friend's heart; and Quil had been forced to share that pain for many years. What reason could she have for coming back? "Unless…."

His friend raised an eyebrow. "Unless what?"

"Well… what if they came back… because of you?"

Jacob laughed, scoffing at the idea. "Why? To trick me? To hurt me? To piss me off? Those bloodsuckers may be heartless, but I doubt they'd go through so much trouble for something so pointless!"

"No, not that!" Quil shook his head. "I mean, well… when you said she tried to remind you of the old days… what do you mean, exactly? Did she sound… I dunno, guilty or something?"

"Maybe a little… I mean, she said she was sorry. And, well… some other things…" Like that she still loved me… Jacob shook away the memory. "But what does it matter? I'm telling you, that filthy leech was just playing some twisted game with me, that's all!"

"But what if she wasn't?" Quil replied. "Look, as much as I hate to say this, maybe… maybe she just wanted to see you!"

"Yeah, that would make sense if it was Bella we were talking about!" Jake closed his eyes, frustrated. "I'm telling you, it wasn't her. She died a long time ago…" He murmured.

His friend merely shook his head in reply and headed back toward his house. Quil paused when he reached the door. "Think whatever you want, Jacob. But I really think you should talk to her. You can handle yourself if things get out of hand; if this turns out to really be some 'trick'. Just think about it, okay? You want to see her… more than you're willing to admit." He closed the door behind him and was gone without another word.

XXX

Jacob lay in bed for hours that night, staring blankly at the ceiling. Normally he spent most of the night in the forest, acting as an unnecessary protector for his tribe. But instead he remained at home, trying to fight the truth of Quil's words. Could she really have come back… for me? He thought back to their meeting, to the things she had told him. The desperation and pain in her voice seemed to echo in his mind. She had seemed so genuine, so sincere… Could it be possible that she had missed him just as much as he had missed her?

He traveled even farther back, more than thirty years before… to the last time he had seen her alive. It was shortly after the battle with the newborns. He had been stuck in bed, still recovering from his injuries, when she had come. He knew the moment he looked into her eyes that he would never see her again. She seemed so upset, so angry with herself. That was when he decided to give up, to stop fighting; it wasn't worth it to hurt her like that. He knew that she loved him; even shared his dream of a life together… but nothing could stop the crushing realization that she would never be his.

It was almost laughable to think that she had once called him her "sun". Didn't she understand that it was the other way around? Despite his love for his brothers, Jacob had struggled for so long with what he was; he felt like a freak, a monster… sometimes he still did. And yet having Bella beside him, knowing that she accepted him no matter what, it gave him hope, strength, light… But then she was taken from him, gone forever. His sun had been dragged down below the horizon; He had been living beneath a black sky ever since.

There was another memory tugging at his mind, even stronger than the first. It was one he could not escape.

It was at the end of August thirty-two years ago, a few weeks before the start of his Junior year of High School.

"Jake?" Billy's strong voice carried from the front porch down to his son's garage in the back of the house.

"Coming!" Jacob replied instantly, lifting himself from the ground and wiping his greasy hands on his jeans. He had been spending a lot of time in the garage lately, tinkering with the Rabbit. It was a 

good way to keep busy and have some time alone. Anything to avoid thinking about how much he'd soon be losing… and had already lost.

When he entered the house, Jacob found his father waiting for him in the tiny living room, looking very nervous. He wheeled himself forward slightly when his son entered, but did not speak. Jacob sighed heavily at this. Already he could sense that his dad had something he wanted to talk about. Why all the build up?

"I just got off the phone." Billy said finally. He paused. "With Charlie."

With a deep breath, Jacob closed his eyes and forced himself to remain calm. I should have known this would be coming… he thought. "Oh." He said simply.

Billy nodded, clearing his throat softly."I guess Bella's leaving for, uh… 'college' tomorrow morning." He continued uncertainly, not quite able to look his son in the eye. Jacob did not reply. "She wants to see you." Billy told him.

"Really." Jacob spoke slowly, fighting to control himself. "Then why didn't she call me herself?"

His father sighed. "According to Charlie, she doesn't think you'd come. But apparently she's pretty upset about it."

Jacob lifted his eyes from the floor, looking directly at his father. "She's right. I won't come."

"Jacob, please." Billy shook his head. He feared his son would react like this. "This may be your last chance…"

"Look, dad. It's not that I don't want to. I just can't." Jacob tried to hide the pain in his eyes. "Just like I wanted to be there for that stupid wedding… but I couldn't."

"Couldn't you just try?" Billy made one last attempt to get through to him.

"No." Jacob replied firmly. "I can't go through with that again."

"You owe her this, Jacob. She's still your friend."

"Yes," Jacob agreed sadly. "But that doesn't change anything." He was out the front door without another word.

He had spent nearly the entire day in the forest, consumed by his grief. He did not return until nearly midnight. The next morning, he forced himself to remain in bed until past noon, fighting the urge to run after her, to try and stop her. I love you, He thought miserably, wishing she could hear him. Promise you'll never forget…

He always regretted missing that last chance to say goodbye. But he had been a coward… And he was still a coward. After all these years, she had come to him, tried to make amends, but he was too afraid to face his past. He had let her down by not saying goodbye that day… and he had let her down yet again. She must hate me…

Jacob sat up suddenly, his decision made. He had to see her, to talk to her… she could not hate him; he wouldn't let her. A part of him still doubted whether the creature he had seen that day was really the girl he loved. But he knew that it did not matter - he couldn't just end it the way he did in the 

clearing. She deserved better than that. He would go to her, he would let her talk, and he would listen. What more could he do?

He glanced at the clock. It was past midnight, but he knew that time meant little to the Cullens. Jacob leapt from his bed and within mere moments, he was flying. The faintest traces of her scent still filled the air. He followed it desperately, pushing his four legs as fast as they could carry him. He wasn't sure if he would be able handle facing her again or speak to her without losing his temper. But he had to try, for her…

For Bella…

A/N: Sorry for the total lack of action in that chapter! There will be more Bella and Jacob interaction in the next chapter, as well as some more heart-wrenching emotion (can you tell I lovewriting all that depressing stuff? Hahahahaha) And I KNOW it seems right now that my story doesn't really have much of a "plot" to it, but there will be fighting, conflict, and action later… the story's only just begun! PLEASE review and thanks so much for reading!

PS: There is this song by Teddy Geiger called "Sunshine Fires" that hasn't been released yet, but you can find live vids on youtube. It's a GREAT song and really sounds like it's about Jacob from Bella's POV… you should check it out!