Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
It was raining the day of the funeral. Of course, that just meant it was Forks. But it was easier for Jacob, as he stood out in the rain with his two daughters and son, letting the tears slip down his face, unnoticed. The four of them watched their mother's casket as it was lowered into the grave, eyes blurred with rain and tears. Jacob didn't have to pretend to be strong for his family.
The funeral was very small. Charlie and Billy had both passed away a couple of years ago, and Renee was in no shape to travel, having succumbed to Alzheimer's disease just after Jacob's youngest, Alice, had turned four. Most of Bella's high school friends had grown up, moved away, lost touch over the years. Only Angela had returned, her hair starting to turn gray, staring silently at the grave. Too much time had passed for them to have any sense of closeness. She couldn't possibly be as heartbroken as Jacob and his family, and the thought made Jacob resent her presence here. At that moment, Angela glanced up and caught Jacob's eyes. She was crying, her eyes full of sympathy, and Jacob turned away, ashamed.
The pack was here. Leah laid a rose at the foot of Bella's grave before walking away. Sam held Emily close, and Jacob turned away, unable to watch, knowing that Sam was feeling grateful that it hadn't been Emily he'd lost. And Jacob couldn't hate him for that. He'd never imprinted, although he couldn't imagine the pain that losing the one you imprinted on could be any worse than losing Bella.
The funeral was coming to an end as Pastor Weber, one of Angela's younger brothers, concluded the service with a prayer.
"Daddy, why did this have to happen?" Jacob's youngest asked, her face streaked with tears and rain.
Jacob bent down and picked her up like he used to, before she became too big. She was only nine, after all, and very frightened. Jacob had been only a little younger than her when his own mother had died. Alice buried her face into his shoulder.
"Why?" she asked again.
"I don't know, Alli," Jacob whispered into her ear. Charles and Sarah, 13 and 16 respectively, pressed closer to Jacob's body.
Thirty years had not been enough. Jacob still looked like a young man, while his wife had grown older, day by day. Not long enough. Not nearly long enough. He had bargained with him for Bella's life, to live with her forever. Not to lose her like this, in thirty short years. Bella should not have died. But while Jacob could fight off vampires to keep her safe, he could not fight away the cancer that had taken over her body.
The line of funeral goers went by as they each said something to Bella, too late for her to hear their belated goodbyes. Sam and Emily went last, and they stepped aside and waited for Jacob.
"It's time to say goodbye to your mom," Jacob said, his voice numb. He listened as they gave her their last words.
Sarah, who had remained unnaturally composed through the entire funeral suddenly burst into tears. "I'm sorry, Mom," she said. "I'm sorry I was causing problems for you. I just wanted to grow up, you know? I'll miss you." And then she couldn't speak anymore and turned away.
Charles knelt down and whispered something Jacob didn't quite catch. Jacob's son took after Bella in disposition, quiet and contemplative. Of all of them, he was perhaps the most accepting of Bella's death. Or maybe he just held it inside more.
Gently, Jacob set Alice down, who said simply, "I miss you, Mom. I love you. I hope you're happy wherever you are." She sniffled, not wanting to cry while saying goodbye.
Happy. Had Bella ever truly been happy? Bella had never been able to forget Edward completely, although she tried. Jacob wondered sometimes if she had made the right choice. He'd even asked her once. And Bella told him that she chose him, and that she loved him, and that he was just being silly. But Jacob knew, when he would come home from patrol and find Bella with her eyes distant and sad, who she was thinking of. And her last words…
But Bella had been happy, she had to be. He saw the way the sadness disappeared when she looked at her children, and when she looked at him. Bella was everything. And Jacob would have done anything to keep her happy.
Jacob was abruptly brought back to the present when the wind changed, and he smelled vampire, sickly sweet. But more than that, this was a particular vampire that Jacob recognized.
Sam stiffened, and Jacob turned to face him. "Can you take the kids home? It's alright. I can deal with this. Leave us."
Sam nodded, and Emily gathered the kids together, and the group headed back out to the cars.
When they were gone, Jacob turned. "You can come out now."
Edward stepped out of the shadows. He looked as bad as Jacob felt. True, his clothing was the black of mourning, but it was well worn, with tears and stains. And Edward's forever young face was weary and aged with sorrow, even though it was still seventeen. He looked worse than Bella had the day she came to visit Jacob at his house, after Edward had left the first time. But Edward's eyes were a light golden, so Jacob knew that, for all his wildness, Edward was still as safe as a vampire could be.
"I came to say goodbye," he said.
"How did you know?" Jacob asked softly. "How did you know she…" His voice trailed off. He still couldn't say the word.
Edward knew what Jacob meant. "Carlisle had Jasper hack into her medical records. Alice couldn't see her as long as she was with you, so if we wanted to keep an eye on her from a distance, that was our only option."
"I had to come, to see her again, one last time."
"I know. That's why I made everyone leave."
"Thank you," Edward said softly. He came forward and knelt at the foot of the grave, reaching out and touching one of the roses very softly. Then he turned to Jacob.
"Was her passing… easy?" His eyes searched Jacob's, desperate for answers.
"Yes. She just fell asleep, and didn't wake up." His voice broke, but he struggled through the words. "She was so brave. When the doctors told her that there was nothing to do anymore, she just nodded her head. And when she was in the hospital for the last time, she told me she wasn't afraid. That she had come close enough to death before. That the only thing she was scared of was leaving us behind."
Jacob swallowed to get rid of the lump in his throat. "Why didn't you come earlier? Why didn't you…" But Jacob's voice trailed off.
Edward smiled wryly, reading the rest of Jacob's thoughts. "Why didn't I change her?"
"No. Why didn't you save her?" The tears welled up and spilled out, but Jacob didn't turn away.
"I wouldn't have saved her life, I would have condemned it."
"And I would have done anything…" Jacob sighed heavily. "I would have asked you, you know."
"I know. But she would not have been happy with this life. Not after she chose you. Bella had a different life, one that I wasn't a part of. A human life, with a family. To have had that, only for me to take it away… She would have hated me for eternity. And if I came earlier, I couldn't have stopped myself from changing her. So only now am I here."
"You still love her," Jacob observed.
"Once something is changed in our lives, it cannot be undone. I fell in love with Bella. And I will always be in love with Bella. At least, until I die." He smiled, sadly.
Those words sounded distinctly ominous, and understanding suddenly flashed through Jacob. "But, why?"
"Why kill myself? I cannot live in a world where she does not exist." He shrugged. "There is nothing to hold me here. And I have lived long enough without her."
Jacob wanted to be with Bella more than anything in the world, and Edward was going to take that from him? Sudden jealousy sprang up in him. Jacob could beat Edward there, and be with Bella for eternity.
But the jealousy quickly faded into reason. It was an option. Bella was his whole life. And he didn't know how to live without her. Death would certainly make that easier.
"No," Edward said. "Your life is more than Bella. You have her children, who need you very much. I heard them. The boy- he's worried about you."
"Charles has always been too observant," Jacob answered. "Like his mother."
Edward nodded, and stood up.
"What do you plan on doing?" Jacob asked.
"The same thing I tried to do the last time I thought she died. You see, I don't have anything else to live for. Whether she cared for me or not, she was my life. And I would have done anything she asked of me. Even walk away."
"She did love you." Edward met Jacob's gaze again. "Sometimes, in her sleep, she'd call your name. But I was always the one to answer."
"I never knew that."
"She chose wrong. It was you she always loved, you she cried out for, your name on her lips right before she died. Not me. I have spent my life trying to make her happy, and I couldn't, because I wasn't you."
Edward stared at Jacob for a moment in stunned silence before he said something. "But Bella chose you. Had our positions been reversed, she would have cried out for you."
"If she had chosen you, she wouldn't cry out in her sleep because she wouldn't sleep. She wouldn't have died!" Jacob cried.
Edward was shocked into silence for a moment. "No. I refuse to believe that. Bella knew her mind, her heart. She loved you enough to choose you over me."
They stared at each other, and Jacob suddenly noticed how empty Edward's eyes looked. Vampire or not, he had loved Bella, loved her enough to let her go. Jacob felt sympathy rising up in him. The only person to truly have any idea how he felt was Edward.
"I can't believe it," Edward said after a moment. "I'm too weak to learn how close, how much she wanted me, and never knowing… No. She loved you. She loved her family. Even had I come into the picture in time to save her again, she would have chosen you."
"She cried when you left," Jacob said. "But when she said your name, for the last time…" Edward waited patiently for Jacob to get his voice under control again. Jacob took a steadying breath. "She was smiling. It was almost as if she was expecting to meet you."
Edward nodded again. "She knew, even when she had left me behind her, what I would do when she died."
"What do I do?" Jacob begged him.
Edward looked beyond him. "You look after them. The happiness will come after."
Jacob turned to see what Edward was looking at, and saw Alice walking slowly towards him, her black hair dripping from the rain. She stopped when he looked back.
"She's the one you'll have to watch the most. This loss is affecting her more strongly than the others."
"Alice doesn't take change well. She never has. Like Bella never did. Both Alice and Charles take after her strongly. Sarah's more like me."
Edward stiffened at the name Alice, and Jacob smiled for a half second. "Bella named them all. Sarah Renee, after our mothers, and Alice Joy, after your sister. Charles was named after her father, and Anthony after you."
"She… after me?" His voice was so soft Jacob barely heard it.
"Yes. Not Edward, because that name was too close for her, too hard. But she could think of you when she thought about our son. I didn't know, for a very long time, that the name belonged to you." And that had stung like betrayal when he first found out. When Bella had been keeping it a secret from him…
Edward took a deep breath, eyes on Jacob still. He must have heard those thoughts about Bella. Edward had to know that Bella had still loved him.
"She walked a hard road. She loved us both, the entire time," Edward said.
"Maybe any choice would have been the wrong choice."
"Or maybe she chose rightly after all." Edward's voice was soft. "You underestimate yourself, you know. I respect you a great deal. How long did you know? And still you stayed?"
"That she still loved you? I always knew. Even before she married me, I knew. But she begged me not to leave her behind, and I couldn't. She did love me, enough to be happy sometimes, when it snuck up on her. She was haunted by sadness, but the times she looked at me or our children, the shadows would disappear for a moment, and I knew I made the right choice."
Edward studied Jacob. "You've changed. Grown older. You're not the same immature boy I left Bella with."
Jacob shrugged. "Growing up happens. I got married. I had children. I had to become father and husband. And I'm Alpha, now, since Sam stepped down. Responsibility changes you."
"And so does death," Edward whispered, glancing down at Bella's grave.
"So does death," Jacob agreed sadly.
"Goodbye, Jacob. I wish you happiness, that it finds you like it found Bella. And watch over them."
"They're all I have left."
Edward nodded. "They each have a part of Bella."
"Yes. I will do my best. Thank you." Jacob didn't even know what he was thanking Edward for, except that he finally saw him as an equal. Bella was right. In the end, it didn't matter who was vampire and who was werewolf.
Edward nodded, and then walked away into the forest.
"Daddy," Alice called, running up to him now. "Who was that man?"
"Someone I respect, who loved your mother very much."
"Oh." She glanced back up at Jacob, and he took her hand.
"How did you get away from Sam and Emily?"
"I can run faster than them," she said, her voice indignant. And he'd ordered Sam to leave Edward and Jacob alone to talk, so he couldn't run after her.
Jacob smiled. "Let's go home," he said.
She stared at him for a moment before pressing against his side. "I love you, Dad. Don't leave me."
Her voice was reminiscent of the time Bella begged him to stay, before the wedding. Alice shivered, whether from fear or cold, Jacob couldn't tell.
Jacob knelt down to look her in the eyes, smoothing her black hair. She had Bella's dark brown gaze. "I won't ever leave you, honey. I promise." He kissed her forehead. Jacob intended to keep his promises.
Well, there you are. Sad and depressing. Instead of writing a nice fluffy chapter, I get to write this instead. My brain sure is odd when I'm sick.
Please review! Flames and criticism, or good comments, too, are all welcome.