You know those fics where Edward doesn't come back and Bella forgets about him and five seconds later she's in bed with Jacob and none of it makes any damn sense?
Yeah, this isn't one of them.

This story picks up from the moment in New Moon when Jacob has driven Bella home after the cliff diving incident, right before he catches the scent of Alice. Only in this telling, Alice wasn't looking, so there's no sudden appearance at Bella's house, no Rosalie calling Edward and sending him on a suicidal mission to Volterra, and no reason for Bella to do anything but believe that Edward didn't love her anymore. This is simply a story of what might have happened if everyone stayed mostly in character and Edward's return was delayed. Yes, delayed. Because we all know that he was "this close" to coming back on his own anyhow. So what would have happened if Bella had tried to move on with her life?
Oh, and it's rated M to be on the safe side, not because there are lemons. The lemons are growing, but they won't be ripe for the picking until the sequel.

No, I'm not Stephenie Meyer, I don't own Twilight, and I'm not getting paid for this. That goes for every chapter I write. However, I would accept payment in the form of one of those gorgeous guys from the Twilight Movie. And by gorgeous, I mean not Mike Newton.

(Bella's POV)

...and the moment was over. Jacob was around the truck before I could snap out of it, opening my door for me. I hesitated, wondering if there was a way I could salvage the chance I'd lost. But I lost my courage and hopped out quickly, unable to meet his eyes. I could tell he was watching me, brow probably furrowed, slight frown on his lips. As if he was trying to read my mind. But my mind had never been as easy to read as my face. Even I couldn't make sense of my thoughts.

I trudged toward the house with Jacob one step behind me. Reaching the door, I turned to him. Maybe if I looked him in the eye, maybe then I would know for sure. But that would have been too easy.

"Bells?" he began. I was right; his brow was scrunched & the corners of his mouth turned down. But his eyes were a mystery. They were almost Sam's eyes, distant and guarded. Yet I saw a flash of my Jacob for an instant. Then it was gone.

His too-warm hand reached for mine, then quickly let go. "Don't worry. One of us will be here tonight, too. Now get some sleep. You look awful."

"Thanks, Jacob," I mumbled. "I don't know what I'd do without you." And I have no idea what I should do with you, I added silently.

I unlocked the door and stepped inside, fumbling for the light switch. I turned to see if he was coming in, but he was gone.

Thinking was getting dangerous, at least in terms of my remaining sanity. I washed the few dishes that were in the sink and dug through the fridge for leftovers. I wasn't hungry, but Charlie might be. I guessed he was at the Clearwaters' house, so who knew when he'd be back? I arranged what was left of last night's dinner on a plate, covered it in plastic wrap, and returned it to the fridge. I scrawled a quick note to Charlie, complete with how long to microwave the meal, left it on the kitchen table, and dragged myself upstairs to my room.

A quick check of my email revealed one long-winded note from Renee. There was so much I couldn't (or shouldn't) tell her, so I quickly ran out of things to say and hit send after typing only a few sentences. Well, that took all of three minutes.

I desperately needed a shower, but that would just give me more time to think. So I changed into my old sweats and crawled under the quilt, ready to face the confusing maze of my thoughts and the eventual nightmares that always followed.

Jacob. My best friend. My only friend, if I was being realistic. He loved me in spite of what he was and what I couldn't be. Without him I had nothing, I was nothing---nothing more than the zombie that took over when Edward left me. He'd defied his pack for me, placed himself in danger every night to protect me, and never asked me to be anything more or less than what I was. Sure, his newly acquired supernatural status had caused some problems, but he hadn't abandoned me---not the way Edward had. Not permanently.

Jacob knew me better than anyone, better than I knew myself. Was that it? Was I so busy questioning myself, trying to decipher my twisted emotions and tangled thoughts while Jacob had it all figured out? I remembered Edward's cool embrace, his marble lips, his golden eyes...what was left of my heart wrenched tightly in my chest. Then I thought of Jacob's warm arms wrapped around me, his infectious laughter, and his ability to keep me from falling to pieces again... The pain choking my heart relaxed and I could breathe.

I awoke feeling less than rested and, as usual, screaming. And, God, my throat hurt. Maybe inhaling sea water wasn't such a good idea after all. I guess I'd be leaving the cliff-diving to the Quileutes from now on. I dressed quickly and headed downstairs. Charlie was in the kitchen staring at a cup of coffee.

"Jake called," he said, snapping out of his thoughts for a minute. Harry's funeral was today. Charlie must have been taking it harder than I thought. He didn't even look away from his coffee. I walked over and gave him a quick hug, holding him a bit tighter than usual, then grabbed the coffee pot and poured a cup for myself.

"Coffee, Bella? Didn't you get enough sleep?" he asked.

Caffeine and I didn't usually get along. Then again, maybe we got along too well, which was why I normally avoided it altogether. I had enough trouble staying upright. Caffeine just sped up my falls, and hyper-clumsiness was far from attractive---or safe, not that I'd cared much about my looks or safety lately. But after yesterday, and the restless sleep I'd gotten last night, coffee sounded good. "It's just one of those days, Dad," I explained.

"Yeah, I guess it is."

We sat there in silence for a while, both staring at our coffee more than drinking it. Sure, the situation was awful, what with Harry's death and my inability to think straight, but at the time I really appreciated that neither of us felt the need to fill the silence with small talk and mindless chatter. Finally Charlie walked to the sink, poured out what was left of his coffee, and grabbed his keys.

"I'm headed back over to Sue's. The funeral isn't till this afternoon, but she could probably use the company."

"Ok, Dad. I'm probably just going to hang out here all day, but I'll leave you a note if I decide to go anywhere." Normally he would have asked questions, like where did I think I might go, but this time he just nodded and left. Great. More time by think.

I dumped out my coffee, too, and walked over to the window. Edward's voice in my head had told me to be happy, and I wanted so badly to be, even though I knew it wasn't entirely possible. I'd spent my recent past nearly killing myself just to hear his voice. If I was going to allow Jacob to be more than just my friend, I couldn't very well keep putting my life in danger just for imagined moments with Edward. Would I continue hearing him if I stopped all my foolishness? Did I want to? Could I? There was a movement, a flash of color in the shadows behind the trees. I wondered if it was Jake and if he was watching me at that moment. I probably looked awful. Well, I could at least do my thinking in the shower.

I was just getting my hair wrapped in a towel when the phone rang. Crap! I'd forgotten all about Jacob's phone call.


"Bella? You okay?" asked Jacob.

"Ah, sure. Why? Has something happened?" My heart stopped. Had Victoria gotten close?

"No, I was just checking on you," he quickly explained, "...after yesterday. And you didn't call me back."

I guess that hadn't been him in the woods. "You worry too much, Jacob. I just slept in a bit. And the closest I've come to death today was slipping in the shower."

"Knowing you, I'm sure that was a close call," he laughed. "So are you going to the funeral with Charlie?"

I probably should go. Charlie might need the moral support. Who was I kidding? Charlie was just like me in that respect. Grief was better handled alone. Besides, he'd have lots of friends there who far better at this kind of thing. "No, I don't think so. Charlie doesn't need to spend the whole time worrying about me."

"Bella? Are you sure you're okay? You seemed a when I left last night."

See? I said to myself. Jacob does know me better than anyone. "I'm just still half-asleep, Jacob."

"Okay, Bells," he replied with a tinge of uncertainty. "Call me later." And the moment was gone again.

If only sleep didn't bring with it nightmares. I knew better than to crawl back into bed and give them another shot at me. So I set the phone back in the cradle and picked up the newspaper.

The crossword puzzle seemed like a good way to keep my mind busy for a little while. Unfortunately, this particular crossword was more difficult than I anticipated, and I found myself wishing Edward was here to help me. Edward. The hole in my chest ripped open and I found myself gasping for air. I wrapped my arms tightly around my chest and concentrated on breathing. Clearly sitting around here all day was not going to work. I needed Jacob.

I hurried back up to my room and threw on the first clothes I could get my hands on: a pair of ragged jeans and faded button-up blouse. It was a little cool for something so thin, but I had a coat. Besides, Jake was practically an electric blanket. I grabbed my keys, penned a quick note to Charlie across the face of the crossword puzzle. I practically ran to my truck.

A/N: This is my first fanfic, and any reviews are greatly appreciated!