Bella slept in fitful patches, kept waking up in hot and cold sweats, Jacob's name on her lips, and every time she did she would bolt upright, eyes darting around the unfamiliar cell of a room.
His room. La Push. Billy Black's house.
She would sigh, bury her head in the pillows again, try to forget that Jacob was out hunting the thing in her nightmares, they were all out, the whole pack, risking their lives to save hers.
She hated it so much, imagining them ripped apart, gutted and bloody, her relief when Jacob walked through the door each morning undercut by the impossibly dark circles around his eyes. She hated it all so much, and the little martyr inside of her wanted to beg and cry Don't do this, I'm not worth it, or better – worse – run off and find Victoria, offer her throat to end this.
But that would hurt him… It would break his heart and you know it… And Charlie, Renee… And then more than that even, Bella found that she wasn't quite as brave as she liked to think, and that for the first time in months, she really didn't want to die.
Her heart lurched when he stumbled through the front door, his sweatpants torn, biting his lip to hold in a groan.
"Jake!" she screeched, rushing toward him, taking in the subtle splash of bruising along his upper arm. "Oh my God. What happened, please, what happened?"
He smiled weakly. "It's fine, don't worry. Well…" he rolled his eyes, "It's not fine. I mean, I didn't get her. She got away."
Bella's heart was jumping like sparks out of an open fire. "You found her," she whispered, tears clouding her eyes as the gory images in her dreams bloomed before her.
Jake grimaced, stretched and rubbed at his bare shoulder. "Yep. Found her. Lost her again. Oh but she picked me up and threw me on the ground a few times first, so that's something."
He shook his head and grinned at her, and Bella was trembling, thinking How can he still be cheerful in the middle of all this when his face crumpled and he reached out and touched her cheek with the tips of his fingers.
The next words out of his mouth made hers fall open in shock.
"I'm sorry, Bells."
"What?!" she squeaked, appalled beyond the telling of it. "You're sorry? Oh for… Jacob you… What the…"
She threw herself at him in a vain attempt to give him the type of lung-squeezing hug he always gave her.
He chuckled but it finished in a sort of a hissing sound.
Bella frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Sure, sure," he said a little tightly. "Just a bit sore."
Bella pulled back and stared at him with eyes like dinner plates and the tiniest hint of smugness at her lips. "Jacob Black. Did I hurt you?"
He snorted. "Oh please. The leech softened me up for you. And sore isn't hurt anyway. Sore can be sort of nice, you know, like massages."
"Massages!" Bella exclaimed.
Jacob's brow furrowed. "Uh yeah, that's what I said. I gotta sit down for a sec, I'm - "
Bella gripped his forearm, led him toward the couch. "I'm going to give you a massage."
Jacob blinked in surprise, felt oddly panicked for a moment. "Um, what? I didn't know you were a masseuse, Bells."
She cocked her head to one side, sat on the couch and gestured for him to sit on the floor in front of her. "I'm not, but really, how hard can it be?"
He laughed nervously. "I dunno, but yeah, you really don't have to do this, I'm not – ahh…"
Her cool hands clutched firmly at the muscle and skin of his shoulders and it only took Jacob a split second to decide that sore wasn't just sort of nice, sore was fucking heaven.
Bella smiled at the slow moan that told her she was doing this right, dug her thumbs in hard on either side of his spine, shifting up and down.
Her pathetic arms were already starting to ache a little, but she would push through it, hell, she'd keep doing this till they both fell off if she had to. It was such a relief to be useful, and she thought briefly about getting one of those fancy tables with the hole for your face and inviting the whole pack around, giggled at the image of herself in a white nurse's uniform with Heidi-hair.
"What?" Jacob asked, a smile in his voice.
"Oh nothing. I was just thinking maybe I should actually go professional with this." She giggled again.
Jacob sighed contentedly, let his head roll forward. "Well, I'd definitely pay you for it."
He felt his face flood hotly at the way that sounded, quickly added "Um, I don't mean like… obviously…"
The embellishments just made it worse - Bella hadn't actually picked up on the innuendo at first, but now she found herself blushing furiously, willing her hands not to start shaking. She pushed harder at his flesh, trying to keep them steady and he inhaled sharply when her fingers stabbed at the nape of his neck.
She paused, pressed more gently, asked "Is this okay?" in a small, anxious voice.
Something quick and laugh-like spilled out of Jacob before he said "Yeah," in a husky voice, lower than low. "This is okay."
Bella watched as her white skin rubbed against the slick red-brown of his and after a couple of seconds she found she had dangerous words in her mouth.
She held them there for a long time, tried hopelessly to swallow before she said softly "Shift forward a little."
Jacob obeyed and she found herself slipping down to the floor behind him, her legs sliding out around his.
They were very, very close all of a sudden and she could feel the heat of him through her thick jeans, he could feel the shape of her chest through her shirt when she was pressed against him for a moment. She pushed gently at his shoulder so that he leaned forward a little, brought her hands down to work at the small of his back.
She could hear him breathing shakily through his nose, felt his heart pounding under his ribs when her fingers crept up to them. Bella's mouth suddenly felt like it was full of maple syrup and she swallowed twice, three times, closed her eyes as her hands slipped around the sides of his torso and over his chest.
Every muscle in his body jumped, then he sighed with something less like contentment and more like… Bella didn't know what it was like. It was a new sound, strange and a little threatening, but she was brave enough for this, she might not be brave enough to face Victoria, but she could face Jacob now as his head turned, as his shoulders twisted and his eyes met hers with the same something that had come out of his mouth a second ago.
He brought one hand around and touched it to her cheek, she smiled, nodded feather-light, and they were a strange tangled mess when he kissed her, slowly, sinkingly, down, down into the deep waters of JacobandBella.