Moments Before Eternity

"Jacob. She's here. Bella's here." He heard Sam's voice in his head, calling him back to La Push. He was countless miles away from them, three hours' worth of hard running at least, but he stopped dead in his tracks, and turned around.

"Tell her I'll be there soon. Look out for her 'til I get there."

"You sure this is what you want? You're coming back?"

"Tell her I'm coming."

He had ample time to think about the situation before he confronted it. Why was Bella in La Push? Wasn't she marrying the bloodsucker Cullen in two days? Wasn't she supposed to be a bloodsucker soon? What did she want from him? Jacob didn't allow himself to hope she'd changed her mind; he didn't let himself think that she was coming back to choose him. She wasn't; he knew that much.

To stop himself from hoping, he remembered: the moment he saw her on the beach and knew his life was changed, the days when she seemed lost except when she was with him in the garage as she slowly learned how to be happy again, their first kiss… their second kiss. He even remembered their last moments together, when she'd told him she'd seen it all—their whole life together—and he felt the only pain that would not heal freakishly quickly. That's when he ran away.

The world seemed bigger without Bella—he could run anywhere without worrying about what sort of troubles she was getting into. He didn't like the freedom. He didn't like not having to worry about her, mostly because he knew that she was just as safe with them as she was with him. He hated to admit it, but if he couldn't protect her, he was glad the Cullens could. Bella needed all the help she could get.

When he arrived, Jacob put on the track pants another pack member had hidden in the woods near the reservation. He entertained the idea of showing up nude, both to show off and to see Bella blush, but he decided against it. The boyish Jacob he had been was still somewhere in the woods. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath—he understood that this was the moment, his moment, and he had to let it come. He opened his eyes and took her in.

She seemed smaller somehow, like the parts of her that loved Jacob had disappeared. She looked happy—whether it was because of him or the bloodsucker he didn't know. Truly, he didn't care. Bella was here, with him, in this moment, and that was enough. "Hey Bells."

"Hi Jake." The words hung in the air between them; Sam, Quil, and the others exchanged looks and began to quietly disperse. Bella took a tentative step toward her friend, and she slowly took another. Jacob closed the distance between them with three bounding steps and hesitated only a second before crushing her in his arms. It felt good, like home, for both of them.

"Bella, I didn't think you'd… I'm happy you're here, Bella." He kept thinking her name, over and over again, like a mantra, trying to believe the person he was hugging really was Bella. There was a muffled reply—her face was smashed against his broad chest—and then Jacob felt her melt into him and just…fit. She shifted her face a bit so she could breathe and curled her arms up in between them, her forearms resting on his smooth chest. She let herself be held for nearly a minute. This was a considerably long time to be that close to a person whose body temperature was a good ten degrees above normal.

"I forgot how warm you are, Jake." He heard the comparison to the parasite as clearly as if she'd said it.

"I forgot how beautiful you are." He'd tried hard to forget that.

"Jake, don't." She stepped away from him now, and his absence sent a shiver down her spine.

They stood apart. Jacob wasn't quite ready to say what he was thinking. He still wanted to dwell in the happiness of holding Bella again. He was thinking, Bells… Why are you here?

His question was answered in due time. They went back to his house and headed to the garage, their refuge of what seemed like so long ago. There was an old couch there now, the fold out kind, and a small stereo—Billy's attempt to make the place more comfortable and entice Jacob to come back home. What Billy didn't understand was that the garage, without Bella, could never be what it had been: she had made it the most comfortable.

"I missed this place, Jacob. The garage… and I missed you. That's why I'm here. I just… I missed you."

"I missed you too, but…you had a choice and you picked him and I…went away. You called me back."

"I've been thinking a lot lately, Jake, about life and… things and I realized something."

He didn't want to ask, yet knew that she wanted him to. "What did you realize, Bella?" The question was hollow and void of hope, he was sure she'd come to him for advice or to give her one last thrill before she, effectively, died and never saw him again. He prepared himself for her answer.

"He doesn't fight for me."

What? "What? Who? What do you mean?"

"Edward. He loves me, and I love him, but… he doesn't fight for me… and I don't…" She paused, not quite ready to admit her last epiphany out loud. Then, "I still don't feel like I'm good enough for him. I never have."

Something deep inside Jacob's massive chest began to ache at the pain Bella was feeling. He wanted to know what to say or do to make it stop. He just said what he knew instead. "He loves you, Bells. He thinks you're good enough. I mean, I know that I've never seen anyone like you, and I've only been around a fraction of the time he has. He waited his whole life for you and he found you and that's the end of it." Everything he said was true also of himself. He could search the whole world, and never find anyone as aggravating, or beautiful, or clumsy, or perfect as Bella Swan.

"I know that but I can't feel it."

He sighed deeply, "Bella, what do you want me to say?"

"I don't know, Jake. I just knew that I had to see you."

Jacob grabbed Bella's hand and led her to the pulled-out bed. He sat and the legs creaked under his bulk; he tugged Bella's hand indicating that she should join him. It was time for him to tell her the truth—the whole truth. "I don't know if I'm capable of telling you the right thing here. I've kind of got a vested interest in the whole thing. You already know I wanted you to pick me. But there's something you don't know."

"And what's that?"

"I imprinted, Bella. With you. Before I even knew what was really happening to me, or what imprinting was. You're it."

"Jacob…" It was nearly a whisper. He'd hurt her, he could see that much.

"I'm sorry but I just, I thought you should know the truth. You're it, Bella. You're it for me." He paused, gathered himself up again, and continued, "I didn't tell you before because I didn't want you to feel obligated to me or anything. But now… I guess you could call it my last effort to fight for you. I would fight for you, Bella. I have."

"I know Jake. I know." She put her hand to his face, the face that had been her light in the time of darkness. "You always fight for me. I love that about you." She looked directly into his eyes and felt the pull of them. She began to lean in, then stopped herself and dropped her hand from his face.

"These days, I'd fight just about anyone for almost any reason. I've got a bit of…aggression I'm trying to work out." He chuckled, trying to lighten things and make Bella smile, but a look of pain crossed her face instead.

"He doesn't make me laugh, either Jacob. We don't laugh. When I'm with him I'm just… I'm so focused on him that nothing else matters and I forget how to be myself. But when he's gone, which isn't much, I think about it and I realize how long eternity is, and what I'm really going to do, and… What if it's all wrong? What if, only after I'm…different… do I realize that I want to grow old with someone? With you?"

The wound he'd worked so hard to heal opened up. It took nearly everything he had in him not to let that cross his face. He looked at Bella—so small and vulnerable sitting there, her eyes beginning to glisten from tears that were close to the surface and he had to touch her. He scooted closer to her and took her small hand in his large one. "I don't know what you want me to say."

"I don't know what I want you to say either, Jake. I don't think I want you to say anything…" She entwined her hand with his, raised the knot to her lips, kissed the back of his hand, and scooted as close to him as she could get. She rested her head on his chest.

Later, when she thought about it, it seemed like she had sat there for hours, her ear against Jacob's chest, their breathing synchronizing and their heartbeats syncopating, willing her mind to stop racing. And then it just… happened. They were kissing. They were kissing softly at first and then with more and more ferocity. It was amazing; not at all like kissing Edward. They could kiss and kiss and she didn't have to worry about anyone's self-control or lack of it. She could just… feel. And feel she did. Her hands started roaming, wondering at the smooth heat of this creature next to her.

Eventually, Jacob stopped trying to kiss her back and just let her kiss him, following the path that her hands forged. Mouth, chin, jaw line, neck, collar bone, everywhere. She was everywhere. Jacob closed his eyes and let himself pretend, just for an instant, that this was how his life was, not how it could be. But it was only for an instant. "Bella, Bella stop." They'd worked their way horizontal, Bella sort of lying on top of him, and he clenched his stomach muscles and sat them both up. "What are we doing? We have to think about this."

"I don't wanna think, Jake. I think too much with… Right now, I just want to be with you."

For once in the relatively short time he'd known her, Jacob had to be the voice of reason. "Isabella Swan. I'm pretty powerless to resist you and if this continues I won't be able to think clearly. You know I want you." He shook himself in order to stop the thoughts from clouding his mind from what was right. "I mean… I've wanted you for ages. But you, Bells. You love him." He grabbed her shoulders and physically moved her away. "You chose Edward." He paused, "Where does he think you are right now, by the way?"

"He's hunting, they're all hunting."

"So he doesn't know you're here?"

"No, but I'm sure Alice does so he will soon enough. It doesn't matter, though. If I choose you, he'll let me go. He won't fight to keep me; he just wants me to be happy."

"We both do." He didn't know what else to say. He knew that this situation could only resolve itself in one of two ways: they finished what they'd begun and she went back to Edward and Jacob dealt with it, or he cut his loses and asked her to leave before the wound he'd been trying to heal ripped open again. For Jacob, this was not even a choice; heartbreak be damned.

She looked down at her hands, fidgeting. The crescent-shaped scar caught her eye and she touched it. "I'm not just marrying him until death do we part. I'm giving him my life… My life, Jacob. I'm becoming something totally new, and it's scary but he'll be there and I love him so much…" She was crying now, openly. "I'll be something new until the end of time; I won't be this Bella anymore. But you… you love me the way I am right now, pulse and all." She'd never contemplated this before. "Forever with you seems much more…manageable."

"I can't tell you what to do and I can't take away your fear." He reached for her then, almost unable to stand her tears, and kissed her face, kissed the moist tracks the tears had left on her cheeks. One, two, three kisses. He rubbed his nose against hers briefly, the wolf in him sneaking out. He touched this forehead to hers and she felt it burn. "I can make you forget about it, though." He kissed her lips tenderly, "Do you want me to?"

He thought he heard a tiny "uh-huh" and began to kiss her neck and the bit of collarbone that was exposed by her shirt. She began to lean back so he could explore further, yet he didn't follow her movements. "You're so fragile, Bella," he whispered in her neck, "I don't want to crush you."

"That's what he says, too," she breathed. Jacob halted as Bella realized that might not have been the best thing to say at this point. "Jacob, I…"

"Are you sure you want this? With me? Have you two ever…?"

"He gets eternity, Jacob. You and I can have this moment." She kissed him once, hard, as if that could convey the finality of her decision to him. She then reached for the buttons of her shirt and, shaking slightly, unfastened them one by one, revealing the white tank top she wore underneath, just a bit of her bra sticking out. One thin strap of the tank fell off her shoulder and Jacob's eyes followed it, helping her bra strap to do the same. Then he kissed the place where they had been only seconds before. Jacob physically lifted Bella onto his lap. He removed the tank top and bra and explored her chest and stomach slowly and reverently, knowing that this was the moment, their moment. These were the few moments before eternity when his dream could come true.

Everything was silent and slow. Bella remembered that the light seemed extraordinarily bright; it bounced off Jacob's russet skin making him look like a copper statue, like a Roman god. His eyelashes were long and they tickled and brushed her skin whenever and where ever he kissed her. His hair was long too; it grazed her breasts and stomach, sending shivers down her spine.

The details weren't important—exactly what happened and for how long and where. The memories of those moments were not really memories at all, but feelings: sadness, happiness, longing, frustration, pain. Pleasure. Bella couldn't have imagined what it was really like, being literally one person with two bodies. She never guessed how beautiful Jacob was up close, his only blemish a scar from a fight that now seemed like a lifetime ago. His body was so different from Edward's—Jacob's strength coming from his sheer bulk; everything about him was massive, his muscles were chiseled, broad and hard, his dark skin almost burning hot. She was sweating slightly, a tiny glisten that, in his eyes, made her glow. Everything about those moments was beautiful.

Jacob knew what he was doing, having experienced sex through the minds of his pack. Normally he found that type of thinking a bit distracting to say the least, but now it was suddenly coming in handy. He remembered everything he'd heard, especially from Leah, and he did it now, kissing, licking, sucking, and rubbing Bella in places that made her breath hitch in her throat and whisper his name like a prayer and wonder that she could feel so beautiful and so comfortable.

She was quiet—not from being self-conscious but rather from awe. Until now, the only perfection she'd ever experienced was Edward. But this… this was different. Was there something beyond perfection? They moved together, slowly, awkwardly, and then progressively faster, all breathing and heartbeats, sighs and tenderness. They were one being, one being made of nerves and exhalations, of love and sweat, of perfection. Jacob was everywhere all at once. She saw the cliff she'd jumped from, ages ago now, and approached it and stepped off, only this time she flew up. Instead of hitting the water she hit the sky. And Jacob was there with her, holding her hand, and smiling like the sun.

She opened her eyes and gazed up into Jacob's dark ones, his face above hers. She whispered the only thing she could think of to say: "Thank you."

After, when their breathing slowed and they could almost think clearly again, they awkwardly got dressed, ironically feeling more exposed in that act than during the one they'd just shared. Neither one had been prepared for what happens after.

Bella walked quietly over to where Jacob sat on the bed, curling her legs underneath her and cozying up to him. He sat still, not quite knowing how to proceed from here. If he had his way, there would be a repeat performance. He put his arm around her shoulder, the silence between them awkward and strange. For the first time, they were uncomfortable.

Jacob spoke first, "So what happens now?" He couldn't look at her.

She shifted and shrunk to lay her head in his lap. "I don't know" she whispered. Then, after a few silent moments, "Did you really imprint with me?"

"Yes, Bella. I didn't know what was happening to me at the time, and I loved you before I changed, but once I saw you again after that… I couldn't stop thinking about you. You're all I see, whether my eyes are open or closed. There will never be anyone but you. I didn't want to believe that but I've had a lot of time to think lately and…I know it's the truth."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Would it have made a difference? Honestly? You're so in love with that para… with Edward that no one else matters. It's just you and him. So what would it have done to tell you?"

She stiffened and sat up. "Don't be like that, Jacob. Don't insult me."

"Bells, I'm not trying to insult you. I'm just telling the truth. I understand it completely, only I don't get to be happy. I don't get to be with the one person who makes me complete. And you do. And you should, Bella. I understand that now. I understand a lot of things now."

"It just seems like the right thing shouldn't hurt this much."

"Well, if it hurts you so much, imagine how I feel." He actually said it with laughter in his voice, knowing he had to lighten the situation to make Bella feel better. He smiled and pulled her face to his, nuzzling her nose again. "Bella, if what you feel for Edward is even an iota of what I feel for you, then you have to be with him. I know that he loves you… maybe not as much as I do…" She punched his arm lightly and he continued, "I understand love now, Bella. I love you enough to let you go and work on being without you."

"Yeah, maybe you and Leah will get together…"

"Not likely, but thanks Bells. I appreciate your optimism." A bit of sarcasm leaked out and he hugged her then. Suddenly everything was as it should have been: Bella was in her Jacob's arms, her sun; she felt whole, and good, and right.

"I'm glad we had a proper goodbye, Jake. I love you."

"I love you back. And hey, if you ever want another 'proper good bye,'" he winked, "you know where to find me."

"Bye, Jake. Thank you, for everything." Color leapt to her cheeks and she gave him one last quick squeeze to hide it, straining up to quickly kiss his lips. Then, she quietly walked toward her truck and left him standing there, contemplating what his life would become without her.

He turned back toward the house and walked into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror and he realized he was lost.

He shaved his head and walked towards the woods again.