Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Twilight Series.
Young Jacob Black was waiting for me in the front of the house, sitting on the hood for Sam Uley's blue impala. His arms were wrapped around his legs in what I recalled to be a defensive position. His thoughts were still lacking aggression, but I knew better then to take foolish chances with a new werewolf. I stopped a good few feet away from where he sat.
His head was down, so I couldn't see his face for a reference point, but I could already tell what type of person Jacob was. He was a good kid, in general. A bit foolhardy and rash, but still a kind soul who only took the paths that hurt his loved ones the least.
I was truly touched as I listened to his conversation with Bella – it wasn't really eavesdropping since they spoke loud enough for me to hear them anywhere in the house and I wasn't willing to leave the area in case Bella should need me. While Bella did not have my second hearing, she could not understand the torment of his thoughts and feelings. How much it hurt him to only see Bella now that she was on her deathbed. How frustrated he was that he could be of little help to her. And his devastation that Bella had seemed more afraid of him then she was us, the cold ones he had been taught to hate. It was almost too much for the poor child to take in, but I was still quite proud of how he handled himself in front of Bella.
Jacob Black loved Bella. She was his friend, but more then that, she was his sister. I could only compare how he felt about Bella with how I felt about Alice. He would do anything he could to protect her and look out for her, all the while still cherishing the joy she brought him. I understood his feelings and I could not fault him for them, just as with how I could justify his hatred for me and my family. Not only were we his sworn enemies, but we had to go and add insult to injury -though, in our defense, it was a pain we caused unknowingly. We had taken away his sister whom he loved from him. He could never get her back now and he resented that her last hours would be shared with me and not him.
But as I looked upon Jacob now, I could see his fragile self that he had hid so well from Bella. Again, I was reminded of his youth despite his size. Bella had been right: he still was a child, no matter how he tried to work around it.
I became aware of his shaking and immediately went on the alert. From past experience, I knew that the shaking of a Quileute's limbs was the prequel to their explosive transformations. I eased back a step, watching him more carefully.
That was when I discovered that he was not shaking from rage; he was sobbing.
Truly, the sight was heartbreaking. Yet, I did not move to him. I knew not how to comfort the boy, and I knew he would appreciate sympathy from his 'enemy' like he would a stab through the heart. So I folded my arms behind my back and pondered what I had learned of Bella through the medium of Jacob's mind while he tried to compose himself.
Mostly, they were mental snapshots of Bella as he remembered her: a quiet girl with soft, chocolate hair and warm, brown eyes. She had a lovely laugh and the brightest smile he had ever known. She hadn't changed so much in those aspects. No, what had changed was how she coped with life – or lack of coping, as it was.
Once upon a time, Bella had been what could be defined as a normal child. I saw her as she was only two years ago: full of life and relatively happy. There were many memories of her as such. Ones of her running along the beaches in a mob of children, standing out as the only one with fair skin. Her smile was radiant as she held on to Jacob's hand to prevent herself from falling. And there was another of her in a pale pink dress, laughing as she began to tear through colorfully wrapped boxes. It had been a memory of a past birthday, I assumed. One memory that had struck me sharpest though was one of her sitting in Charlie's lap as a very small child, perhaps of 5 or 6. Charlie was not the man I had expected him to be in that memory. The Charlie I had met in the hospital was aged and harsh looking, as if he had been a very unhappy person all his life. This Charlie was more youthful, his eyes aglow as he tugged on little Bella's pigtails. I was nearly floored with the amount of love that pour out of him for his little girl. It really was quite sad how drastically he had changed over the years.
But seeing Bella so joyful and full of energy had unearthed me the most. For in the many visions of Alice's that like to assault me with from time to time, Bella's expression was the same if not a thousand times brighter. Bella, my Bella… blissful as a vampire? As a soulless being? I just couldn't understand it.
Jacob began to get a hold of himself, so I fixed my whole attention on him. His eyes were bloodshot when he looked at me finally, but he no longer wept, to my relief. I have to do this, he thought suddenly, still unaware of my gift; I had thought it best to keep my trump card a secret from the youth. For Bella, I have to do this.
"Hey," he said aloud, his voice lacking the volume it had when he stormed up to the house and demanded to see Bella only a few hours ago. It was like seeing a bear reduced to a cub.
"Hello, Jacob. I don't think we were introduced amidst the confusion," I stated politely. "My name is Edward Cullen."
Hard to see bloodsuckers as people, but I have to try. Do it for Bella, Jacob. "Nice to meet you, Edward," he muttered, forcing out my name. "I need to… talk to you."
I tilted my head in acknowledgment. "Then proceed."
Sheesh, he may look like he's my age, but he sure as hell doesn't talk like it. For some reason, my politeness was annoying him. That was odd. "Yeah, well, it's about Bella."
"I had assumed as much. If it's not too much trouble, could you hurry this up? I don't like being too far from her when she is in this state." I could hear that she was already entering her deeper sleep and was shifting about restlessly. Since a week ago, she never could manage to sleep properly. I couldn't do much about that, but I wanted to be by her side should she wake up suddenly or upset a bruise with her tossing and turning.
I'll take care of it, Edward. Rosalie dashed from the living room into my own lodgings then, sitting by Bella's side on the bed in my stead. She began to hum the melody I had constructed for Bella while cooling her head with her icy hand. Bella visibly relaxed.
I still wished to be near Bella's side, but I appreciated Rose's help all the same. "Thank you, Rose. Be sure to give her the proper dose of morphine." I looked back at Jacob to see him watching me wearily.
"Morphine?" he asked hesitantly.
I nodded stiffly. "We've seen that by medicating her in her sleep, her pain lessens. Not nearly enough, but it does help." I sighed. "But, back to our conversation then."
He scooted off of the car's hood, perhaps in an effort to make himself seem like more of my equal with him an inch or so taller then me. I had dealt with the Quileutes before, but I was always intrigued by their genes that morphed their very DNA. I could see from Jacob's memory how drastic his growth spurt had been and I could even tell that he was still growing. It was very interesting.
For Bella. For Bella. He was repeating that like a chant in his head so I opted to duck out of his mind to better concentrate. "I suppose you heard every word I said to Bella?" I nodded. "Then I won't have to repeat myself.
"Bella is very important to me. You can imagine how pissed off I was that, as her only family, I wasn't even told of her condition. I mean, I had to learn from rumors and crap. That's messed up."
"I understand that you feel slighted, but do not assume you are her only family." His arms tightened. I went on gently, "My family has just as much of a right to call her as such, Jacob. You know that."
"Fine," he retorted. "But that doesn't change the fact that I should have been contacted."
I allowed that. "You are right. But I was merely thinking of Bella's well-being. You know her as well as I do: you know how she hates being made a big deal of. And she wasn't ready to say her good-byes quite yet, Jacob."
Jacob shifted uneasily. "H-how much longer does she…?"
He didn't have to finish his sentence. "At most, a week. Her body is constantly trying to give out on us, but we are doing everything we can to prolong her life." I glared over Jacob's head, my fists clenching. "Not that we're doing much good with it anyway."
"Have you… Have you asked Bella how she feels about that?"
"What are you talking about?" I snapped a little harsher then I should have. I could hear Sam, the pack's Alpha growl faintly from his place in the trees.
I could tell the boy was picking his words mindfully. "Only that… You're right when you say I know Bella really well. I know her better then anyone else in the world." I knew it wouldn't be courteous to disagree with that, so I said nothing. "Ever since she was small, she hated being a burden on others above anything else. I know that you guys are doing a lot for her, but she doesn't seem too keen on it." Ah, he caught on quick. I had hoped he wouldn't notice Bella's discontent. "Maybe it would be best…" I can't believe I'm saying this, he thought to himself ruefully. "Maybe the most ethical thing to do now would be to pull the plug."
A violent sound tore the air in two then. I wasn't even aware that the snarl came from my own throat. All I knew was I was about to lose my control and shed blood. Jacob's blood.
But before I could take even one step forward to act, Bella whispered my name in her sleep. It was a soft sound, but it served to bind me in place with surprising strength. I hissed at Jacob, turning away, intending to return to Bella's side and never look back.
But he reached forward to grab my arm. "Wait for a sec, will ya?"
I shook of his arm roughly, almost snapping a bone or two. "I won't sit here and listen to you talk about killing her!"
He drew away, calculating. "I shouldn't have said that, I guess. But I am only thinking of Bella. And she is suffering. You can't expect me to be cool with that."
"What more can you do – can we do!" I was pacing now to distract myself from breaking Bella's 'brother'. "Short of going back in time, we can't stop what the future holds. Bella is… she is going to die." How it hurt to say those words aloud! Nothing had ever stabbed me so surely then the knowledge that the woman I loved would go beyond my each soon – and there was not a damn thing I could do about it. I wanted to just hit something with all my strength. I wanted to yell and scream and cry all at once. Helpless rage. That was what this was.
I saw my own anguish mirrored on Jacob's face. "Don't you think this is hurting me just as much as it is you? I love her, Edward."
"And I do too!"
Jacob said nothing as he processed that slowly. A tiny frown appeared over the bridge of his nose. "I thought it might be something like that. Only excuse I could think of as to why she wasn't dead yet by your own hands." He shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe you are hurting just a bit more then me then. But, if so, then why haven't you… ya know… made her one of you." An image of Dracula biting down on the neck of a pretty woman filled his head. "You guys can do that right? Bite her? I mean, I won't like it one bit. She's my sister and I don't want her to become a blood-thirsty monster, but-"
I held up my hand to stop him just as Sam howled in the distance. He must have thought as little of Jacob's idea as I had. "What you and my sister seem to not realize is that we are not like the vampires you see on TV. One little bite will not satisfy us. If I bit Bella, there is no guarantee she would survive." Disgusted to even be talking about this, I quickly changed the subject. "Besides, you know as well as I do that it's against the treaty. We don't want to cause a war with your tribe."
A vein in his neck throbbed. "I thought you loved her?"
"I do! How dare you doubt that-"
"Then isn't she worth starting a war over!" His fists were clenched as he shook with waves of rage. "And you know there are ways around that treaty. Take her away from here. Take her far away and… and bite her! I never thought I'd have to beg you to do it, but I need toy to bite her! Change her, Edward! Save my sister, goddamnit!" And then he was sobbing again.
A bitter taste was in my mouth as I watched Jacob break down. I knew what it must have cost him to betray his own tribe by coming here. What it cost to accept losing his sister. What it cost to ask his enemy to take her away from here. And what it cost him to beg for his enemy to make her one of them. He had more courage then anyone I had ever met. But he didn't know what he was asking!
I fell to my knees, glaring at the ground below me. "You just don't understand, Jacob. You say we are monsters, and you are right. We all know that. So why… why would you ask me to turn the woman I love into a monster? To take away her soul and place in heaven all at once? To make her hate herself for taking human lives? Why would you ask me to do that? Wouldn't death be a better alternative?"
Jacob thundered as he stepped closer to me, tears still running down his face. "This has nothing to do with what you want, Edward. I could give a shit what you do and don't want! I am only thinking of what is best for Bella! So don't be selfish and condemn her to death just because you don't want her to-to hate you when she becomes a monster! It's not about you any more! This is about everyone who loves her!" His voice failed him then. "I'm not asking you to do anything. I am only saying that if you really loved my sister, you would do what was best for her, not you."
And then he jumped into the Impala and took off with Sam howling as he followed in his wolf form.
Bella woke only a few hours later. As I had promised, I was lying beside her on the bed when he eyes opened, my arms wrapped around her tiny waist, squeezing lightly. As expected, her heart rate picked up a bit, though thankfully, not enough to hurt her. She moved determinedly until she was laying on her side facing me, wincing at the effort it had taken. Her lips found mine.
Kissing Bella had always been a wondrous experience. Even now, with her almost too weak to move at all, I still cherished each and everyone one of her kisses, quite aware any one of them could be our last.
"Hello Edward," she whispered weakly, a smile appearing on her face. "You kept your promise."
"I said I would, didn't I?"
"True. And you've always been a man of your word." She placed her head to my chest, sighing lightly. "So what did Jakey want?"
I said nothing as I stroked her heard from her face, wondering how best to avoid this subject. Lying was out of the question, but I couldn't tell her the whole truth. Couldn't tell her what that foolish boy had asked of me. I tightened my grip around her waist as my muscles contracted. Jacob's words buzzed around my skull angrily, refusing to be extinguished, hard as I tried.
I had heard that same speech before more or less from Alice, so the content didn't exactly shake me as it did before. But there were two major differences from hearing it from Jacob's mouth. One was that Jacob was a werewolf. He was my natural enemy and hated our kind with a burning passion. Yet, despite what his instincts screamed at him, he still wanted Bella to be transformed. I could not as easily ignore his words.
But the other major difference was what really made a true impact. When Alice spoke of changing Bella, she had in mind both of out happiness. Alice wanted me to bite Bella just as much for Bella's sake as it was for mine. Meanwhile, Jacob really could careless about my happiness, something I had in common with him. He only cared about Bella and wanted what was for her own good. He wanted Bella to live, albeit, in an unorthodox way. That, I could easily understand, if I was not biased as I was.
I thought back to Rosalie's words from the fair we had gone to only two weeks prior. She had chastised me for always doing what I thought was best for Bella without Bella's consent. And she was completely right.
Why was I thinking of everyone else's opinions of what was right when there was only one person's opinion that really mattered?
It took great effort to do this, but I knew it was the only thing that was right. "I haven't been complete fair to you. As you have said again and again, this is your life to live as you please." I took a deep, unnecessary breath of her scent to steady myself. "I have to wonder, if the choice was in your hands as it is now, would you wish to become… one of us?"
I hated myself for asking her, for I knew either way, her answer would hurt me. If she said yes, then I would hurt because I knew I would have to bite her. And if she said no, I would know how she truly felt about my kind, and me by extension. "Keep in mind, " I added, "that though you would not have to drink from humans, the instinct will always be there. At times, it might be able to take over you. And we would all do our best to stop you from taking human life, but there would be no guarantee that we would succeed. And this is all assuming I don't… kill you when -if- I was to bite you."
She was silent for too long of a time. I had already assumed that she wouldn't answer me when her soft voice finally broke the air. "Why are you asking my opinion now? I thought you refused to have me as a vampire."
"I'm not saying I have changed my mind about whether or not changing you is right," I was quick to repair. "I only ask because your opinion does count. And I am willing to… consider it."
Her tone was hesitant now. "Remember that time I told you that I didn't need you to save me?" I nodded vigorously. "Well, I lied. I did need you to save me back then, and still do now. This time, though, it's from death." She paused. "If you changed me to be like you, it could be a whole new start of me. I could happily bury the last of my old life with Charlie. And I could start anew with the one I love. It's everything I've dreamed of, Edward. But I won't ask you to change me."
She was thoroughly contradicting herself, confusing me. "So you don't want to be changed," I concluded after a few minutes of consideration.
"No, I do," she whispered quickly. "Desperately. But not because I fear losing my life, but because I fear losing you. Compared to you, my life has never meant less to me. But I won't ask you to change me. I can't do that to you when it's so against what you want. I want you forever, but you seem opposed to having me that long."
How in the world could she get that idea? "That is not it at all, silly Bella. You don't seem to realize everything that you will lose if you become one of us. Your chance at heaven, your humanity, your soul. I could never take those things from you. You deserve so much better-"
"Like rotting in a grave at 17?" I winced at that blow. Her tone took on a gentler side. "My life has never been better since you entered it and you know it. The way I see it, I won't lose a thing by getting to be with you forever; only gain what every person yearns for." I was about to interrupt, but she cut me off. "And don't start that 'I'm-a-soulless-monster' garbage, either. You say you think vampires have no souls, but let me prove you wrong for once.
"Consider this, Edward. My father beat me senseless. He hurt me again and again until I had lost the will to live. He took away any chance I had at happiness as a human, and chance I had at life. But he was human. Did he have a soul?"
"Yes," I growled back. "It was black as night, but he still had one."
She did not lose her determined expression. "You take me in. You let me live with your family and made me whole again, picking up the pieces my father had so expertly shattered. You are selfless and kind and caring and gentle. Besides all those wonderful traits, you have also loved me in a way most can only dream of being loved. Does Charlie still have more of a soul then you do? Does that man have more of a right to be in heaven then you do just because he was human?"
"You regard me so impossibly. I've killed many humans, Bella."
"He was very nearly the death of me," she shot back "In fact, he still will be, even if you do change me."
"I am a monster, Bella!" I was quickly exhausting my patience against her overly-optimistic attitude. It reminded me too much of Alice. "All vampires lose their souls when they transform. It's why we are demons."
"Strange, I was under the impression that soulless being weren't capable of love." Bella tilted her head up to look at me from under her eyelashes. "Does that mean you lied when you said you loved me?"
"Think now of your family," she interrupted with a fierce glint in her deep, brown eyes. "Esme, your wonderful, caring mother. Is she a monster? Alice, your sweet sister who loves us both dearly. Is she a monster? Emmett, Jasper, Rosalie! And then Carlisle. Perhaps the kindest soul in the world. And yes, I did say soul. Anyone who dedicates their life to helping others has to have a soul – an impossibly kind one at that. It is even more insightful about him because his life is endless and he will always be around to do good for humanity." She took my pale face in her hands, the heat from her skin cooling from the ice of mine. With honest, wide eyes, she asked, "Am I kind?"
"The most benevolent woman I have ever met!"
"But vampires are soulless?"
"So even 'the most benevolent woman' loses her soul when she is bitten?"
"Just answer this question. If I were to become a vampire, like you, do you honestly believe it possible for my soul to be lost in the process?"
I thought it over, pulling the theory apart as I examined it. I knew there was a god. After all, there was a devil that had created my kind. But if this god did save a place for all pure souls, would he really send someone as angelic as Bella to the devil? Even if she was a blood drinker? Somehow, I thought not. Denying her entrance into heaven after our existence eventually did end would be the greatest sin ever committed.
"I… think not."
"Then what do you have to lose? Now do you see my point? The true issue here is whether or not you do want me for eternity"
"Of course I do!"
"Then what, Edward, is stopping you?"
I already know what was. My fear. Fear Bella would come to hate me after she realized what she was. Fear that she would fall out of love with me once she was just as beautiful as I. Fear that I would not be able to equal up to the man she believed me to be. I was paralyzed by my own fear.
But no more.
Jacob was right. This wasn't about me and what I wanted.
"Do you truly want to become one of us? This will be the last time I ask, so be positive of your answer."
I never could predict Bella's responses before. Her mind worked in a way I was not familiar with and it was so alien to me. But I thought I understood her just a bit better then I ever had before. And I knew already knew what her answer would be to my question. Two magical words that Alice often saw her repeating in her visions while in a dress of pure white:
A/n: And this is the end of "The Forsaken"! I am toying with the idea of a sequel, but it may take a while to get up. I have to have the right inspiration – all I have now is a vague concept. Review and I'll send you a teaser of said 'vague concept.'
And let me just thank all of you for sticking with me throughout this story! All your reviews have meant the world to me! Thank you!!