Bronze on Black

Bella Cullen's impending death was closing in over Forks like a fog. Sixty years ago Jacob would never have guessed he would be spending half his waking time at the Cullen's house.

Jacob pulled his second Rabbit into the driveway, shutting off the engine and stepping into the cool evening air. The sky was its normal shade of grey, intermingled with the green canopy of trees. Upon opening the door, the scent of vampires rushed over him, thick and heavy in the air. To a normal person the house was clean and fresh, but to a werewolf it was like too much air freshener or a cloud of perfume.

The smell of vampires had common similarities, burning cold and sweetness. Through the years Jacob had learned to recognize their individual scents; Alice smelled like maple syrup, Jasper was more of a cinnamon hard candy. Rosalie had the worst scent, like cordial cherry. With the nose of a werewolf, Rosalie smelled more like cherry cough syrup.

Jacob came inside without knocking, silently passing familiar vampire faces, those he'd come to trust. Upstairs in the last bedroom, Edward sat beside a bed where an old woman lay.

"Hey Bella," Jacob said, smiling warmly.

The old woman turned away, looking out the large windows.

"You again," she said curtly. Jacob's eyes widened, surprised that she even recognized him from the day before. This must be a better day. "Tell him he's got the wrong room again," she said to Edward. Three days ago it was Edward who had the wrong room.

"Jacob's here to see you, Bella. There's no other room." Edward stood and walked to the door. Their bodies grew close as Edward moved past him, their hands accidentally and ever so slightly brushing in the process. Edward's eyes were dark and sad as they slid over him.

The scent that once burned Jacob's nose was now something he was accustomed to, eased by long exposure until he could dare to say he liked it. Edward had the best scent by far; not overpowering, but natural. Edward was like honeysuckle and vanilla.

Jacob took the seat where Edward had been, which should have been warm from the endless hours Edward spent at her side. Bella glanced at him warily. She rarely recognized their faces much less remembered their supernatural backgrounds. It had been over five years since she had spoken either of their names.

"I…" Bella started.

"Is there something you wanted to say?" he asked kindly.

Bella looked pained, and he could almost recognize the young girl beneath the withered skin and snowy hair. She hadn't looked so distressed since the months Edward had been gone all those years ago.

"I'm afraid for you," she said.

"Me? What for?"

"You're going to be alone when we go."

"We?" Jacob asked, but he understood almost immediately after. Once Bella passed away Edward would find the Volturi and end his life. Bella's bizarre moment of clarity wrenched Jacob's heart. He lowered his head, gripping the front of his shirt. The gaping hole Bella had spoke of years ago had never truly been understood until he felt it himself, the pain of losing the two people he cared for the most.

"My wolf pack will be with me," Jacob said. All of the wolves were still with him save for Sam, who had given up transforming to grow old with his wife. His passing had been over a decade ago.

"I thought wild animals were illegal as pets."

Jacob was familiar with that line. She said it whenever he mentioned his kind, and it always followed a fit of screaming if he pressed the subject.

"Nah, forget it. How about I read to you? Jane Austin maybe?"

Bella was more tired and short tempered than usual, and she sent him away within the half hour. Edward was leaning beside the door as usual when Jacob left Bella. "Walk with me?" he said.

Jacob and Edward glided through the forest silently. Miles flew behind them and the sky grew darker through the leaves. It was raining when Jacob slowed his four legged pace to match Edward's. Jacob stayed behind a moment to pull on his jeans while Edward stepped into the clearing. Rain pattered through the leaves and dampened their clothes.

"Do you think I'm a terrible person," Edward asked as they sat side by side in the meadow, "Because I'm not as aggrieved as I once thought I'd be?"

"No, I don't. I think you were expecting her to be swept from under your feet one day without warning. It would be harder for both of us if Bella were herself, but she's not."

"I think, maybe, that Bella intended it to be this way. Not consciously of course, but on some fundamental level her body chose to shut down slowly."

Jacob understood. Bella's biggest fear was that Edward had once told her he wouldn't live long after her. It made sense that as a last resort, she tried to trick him into staying alive.

"That's exactly what I mean," Edward said, responding to Jacob's thoughts. "I believe she's sticking around to teach me how to live alone again."

That struck a small chord in Jacob.

"Live without her, I mean," Edward corrected. He looked at Jacob, smiling. "Look at us, the most unlikely comrades together thanks to Bella."

Jacob smiled back. "I owe her big time."

They looked at one another, Edward's smile fading.

'I can't stop you from leaving,' Jacob thought uncontrollably, 'but I wish I could.'

Edward looked away angrily. "I don't want you to be alone!" he said in response to Jacob's thoughts.

"I didn't mean for you to hear that," Jacob said defensively, "I can't help how I feel."

"How do you feel?" Edward said, looking back at Jacob again. "I've been trying to figure it out, because you don't seem to understand it yourself. Why do you care so much about whether or not I run off and die?"

Jacob hit Edward across the face, "Don't play stupid! Spending half my time with you for sixty years is bound to amount to something! Do you think you're still 'the leech' to me? You think I hang around you because you're married to Bella?"

Edward rubbed his cheek with the back of his fist, a blow that would only hurt coming from a werewolf. "I understand all that. There's something else. I feel it sometimes when you look at me." Edward sat on his knees, removing some space between them. "I need to see what happens in your mind when I..."

Jacob's eyes widened as Edward closed the gap. His mind whirled as Edward kissed him, leaning closer in the process. Jacob fell against the grass and Edward positioned himself above, never breaking the kiss.

Edward was right. That something lurking in the back of Jacob's mind for so many years shoved its way forward to announce its feelings. The vampire pulled away, hovering closely so his bronze hair tickled Jacob's jaw. "I thought so."

Rage welled in Jacob and he threw Edward off, jumping to his feet. "You thought what? You thought clearing up my feelings would make it easier? Thanks so much, Edward! Now I know exactly why I'm so torn up over losing you."

Jacob burst into the long-haired russet wolf, running into the forest.

…To be continued. Don't forget to review!