A Sight to Behold

When it starts, it's like drawing in a slow-motion breath after he's been drowning. There's no relief—not yet—because at first he doesn't notice that he's broken through to the surface; it had never seemed, for all the hours, the millennia, that he had struggled underwater that the saving grace of oxygen would ever reach his lungs.

When it starts, he thinks nothing of it. One minute, she's smiling and laughing, bronze curls gleaming in the sunlight, and the next, she's stumbling to the ground with a cry. He doesn't move, doesn't blink. He doesn't catch himself, in fact, until he's already looked away, no hitch in his breath or his steady heartbeat. He's still human, though, beneath the layers of myth, so he moves on and forgets.

But by that time, it's well underway.


Aside from the obvious stilling of her heartbeat, there's one change Jacob noticed most after Bella was turned: that with her life died her emotion. He remembers the listless Bella, the soulless Bella, that Cullen left behind that once; and he remembers the happy Bella, the normal Bella, that came before and eventually after. Neither in that time nor in the other did Bella wear her emotions like a mask in reverse, not like Jacob—and he remembers the balance there, too. She would keep them to herself, most often, until someone pulled them out; but they were there, and at the most unexpected times, they broke through the introverted walls on their own.

Now, though, her face is fixed as a cruel statue, an air of unnatural calm around her. She's Bella The Robot, programmed to have only a general sense of the definition of feeling.

So it's strange, then, to see her brow twist and her venomous teeth chew at her own lip, her eyes unreadable even though he's always known what she's thinking.

There's almost curiosity in the tilt of her head.

"Renesmee told me something, Jake," she says.

He gives her a smile, tries to be cocky. "Yeah. She does that, doesn't she?"

Bella nods slowly, as if not recognizing his sarcasm. "She told me she fell today on purpose, since you weren't watching her. She said you didn't do anything."

He shrugs off the act. "Sorry. I didn't see her, I guess. Kids fall down, Bella—especially if they're yours. It's no big deal."

She opens her mouth, closes it.


"Maybe you're fighting it, Jake."

"Fighting what?"

She shakes her head. "Nothing."


Leah confronts him an hour later with familiar words on her sharp tongue.

"Hey," she says. "I saw you today—with the thing."

"It's Renesmee," he corrects automatically. "Be nice."

Leah rolls her eyes. "Whatever, Jake. I saw you ignore It today. You never do that."

Jacob frowns. "Everyone's saying that, but—"

"Who's everyone?"

He pauses, reluctant. "Just… Bella. And you."

"She noticed, huh? How'd she take it?"

"There's nothing to take."

Leah looks mutinous, things unspoken held within her clenched jaws—until she lets them free, that is. "You know, even if some of this is coming from all that imprinting shit, you're still being one hell of a hypocrite."

He stares at her.

She laughs humorlessly. "And you don't even know it, do you? God, Jake. You were always the one so against imprinting. The rest of us didn't mind it so much—as much, I guess—but you? You were always, 'Blah, blah, blah, free will, make your own choices,' and whatever. That's why you hated Cullen so much: he never let—Bella—choose for herself, and he never knew what was best for her until he'd fucked up her life forever. He didn't…"


Leah bites her lip. "He never knew her like you did. And you hardly even had to try to get that far."

"Yeah?" Jacob matches her laugh from before. "She didn't exactly notice that, did she?"

"Is that why you've given up? God, Jake," she says again. "I don't get it. Nobody changed as much as you did after they imprinted. Sam—"

"I thought you didn't like talking about Sam."

The pain he expects to flash across her eyes like lightning doesn't come, doesn't even boil up dangerously behind dark thunderclouds.

Her tone is even when she continues. "Sam is still Sam, and all that noble crap, Paul's still an asshole, Quil's still a fricken weirdo… I could keep going. But you're different. I don't even know who the hell you are. You took one look at the freak and—BAM!—you turned into this person that's like… the opposite of everything you ever believed in. You don't even joke around anymore."

"Maybe I'm not feeling funny. I could just be more mature now."

She looks at him with an expression of strangled horror. "You're barely even seventeen!"

"So what? We all have to grow up sometime."

Leah bites her lip again, harder than before, and slaps her hand across her eyes so fast that he almost doesn't notice—almost—that she's crying. It's out of anger, Jacob thinks; the Pack learned quickly that when Leah feels something strongly, she explodes. Trying to hold all that inside, especially when she's furious, would be like trying to keep a hurricane closed up in a matchbox.

So it's a shock, then—almost a literal shock—to hear what she says next.

"Bella wasn't the only one," Leah sniffs violently, "that you used to cheer up without even meaning to. Even after you started to get cynical."


She holds up her hand. "Just—shut up. I can't talk to you anymore right now."

She's running away at full force, spine rippling with fur, before he thinks of calling her back. But maybe she's right—maybe he is different now. Because for once, he has no idea what he would say.


It used to be that they'd leave him alone, more or less ignoring the fact that he practically lives here now. He's a piece of furniture, sitting in the same corner for so long that he's disappeared into the background of the wall. He doesn't know what they do all day and all night, what they can possibly find to keep themselves occupied in their dull, perfect lives—but he doesn't want to think of them living it up in that stupid little cabin of theirs. He doesn't care, really—other than about that, and only partially because it's what got him here in the first place.

Today, however, they're close—or Bella is, at least. She lingers in the doorway of the Cullen's house, fingers fluttering upon the frame like uneasy butterflies as he watches Renesmee play in the grass; or she takes walks, too slow for the inhuman to enjoy, around the edge of the lawn, pointedly looking everywhere else until her eyes glance over and accidentally meet his; or she brings a book outside but holds it upside down, staring blatantly over the top of the pages. Bella never was discreet when she was alive, and it causes a strange tug in his chest when he realizes that one thing, at least, hasn't changed after her death. If it weren't for the smell, he might almost forget that she's a vampire.

There are some things, though, that cement themselves in your mind forever, no matter how hard time and habit attempt to wear them away.

Renesmee sees her once, calls out "Momma!" with the joy that only a child can express, but Bella is gone a fraction of a second later.

Renesmee trembles. "Why's everyone ignoring me?"

Out of habit, Jacob pulls her to his chest. "I'm not ignoring you, Nessie," he says, but there's a false note in his words that even a deaf man could hear. It surprises him.

Renesmee pushes away.

On the porch, Bella still sits holding the book that she isn't reading, though she's managed to turn it right-side up, so it's less easy to tell that her eyes don't move with the words, but something else. Cullen crouches beside her, gone one minute and there the next like a ghost.

"Stop it, Bella," he murmurs so softly, so carefully, that Jacob knows it's meant for Bella's ears alone.

Too bad, he thinks, that it's hard to whisper around wolves.

Bella doesn't close her book and go inside, as clearly everyone expects of her. Instead she frowns coldly, snaps, "Don't tell me what to do."

Cullen blinks. "I'm sorry, Bella," he tells her sincerely after overcoming his surprise.

Bella blinks, too, weakening. "I—I didn't mean to say that."

She's lying, Jacob realizes. Cullen would be an idiot to buy that. Renesmee tugs on Jacob's arm, but he barely feels it.

Cullen hesitates. "I… You're reading Wuthering Heights again?"

"It's my favorite book."

He smiles. "I know. How far along are you this time?"

Her eyes flicker down to the page for the first time. "Cathy just died because her best friend broke her heart."

Cullen takes the book from her. "This is your old copy, Bella." He laughs. "The cover is practically falling off."

"I know."

"I bought a new one in hardback yesterday, and left it out for you. Did you find it?"

"Yes," she says, and belatedly adds, "thank you."

"I'll get it for you."

As he begins to stand, Bella's hand shoots out and she grasps his arm hard. "Don't!"


"I mean," she fumbles, "it's too much trouble."

Cullen looks at her oddly. "But it's just inside."

"I…" She frowns. "I'm fine with my old copy for now. Too many memories with it, maybe?"

Appeased, Cullen shakes his head and ruffles her hair. "Oh, Bella. Sometimes you act so human."


He continues to play with her hair, fingers light like wind. "I wish you would let me in your mind again. It's difficult, not knowing what you're thinking anymore."

She shrugs, slipping away from his hands. "I just want a little privacy. It's kind of freaky having you in my head all the time."

"Oh, are you having thoughts you don't want me to know about?" he teases, catching her hair again.

She freezes, and then laughs so that even Jacob almost believes her.


Somewhere deep inside him, something stirs.


There's some kind of game on tonight—he doesn't know which sport or who's playing who—and Charlie has invited a few people over for dinner. Jacob doesn't want to go at first, but when Billy tells him that the Clearwaters will be there (and the Cullens won't), he agrees. It can't hurt, he thinks, especially when Leah's been avoiding him for the past week. She's been upset at him before—she's even raised her fist and damned the world itself, after all—but it doesn't usually last this long. Usually, she gets over it.

They pull up in front of Charlie's house a little earlier than they're supposed to; Billy says he wants to get the good half of the couch. Jacob doesn't mind, except for the fact that Leah will probably show up late—if she doesn't decide to back out at the last minute—and it'll be longer before he'll get to talk to her. He's rehearsed lines in his head this time, something he's never had to do like this before; there's a chance she won't even let him speak at all—a chance he might get a fist in the jaw if he doesn't corner her in just the right way at just the right time.

He's had a lot of time to think about what she said when they talked last—or last she talked, and he tried not to listen. He's had a lot of time for it to start making sense, even when he thinks he doesn't want it to. He's had a lot of time to decide that maybe, she's at least partially right.

He's been noticing things throughout the week. Bella stopped pretending to be lost in thought, to be walking, to be reading, and instead placed herself at his side. She still gave him a pretense—that she wanted to spend more time with her daughter—but it's never her daughter's eyes that she meets, it's never her daughter's laughter that brings the widest smile to her face. It's never her daughter's hand that she accidentally catches as they talk. And it's never her daughter's hand that shoots warmth along Jacob's arm, despite the chill of Bella's fingers.

He even woke up to find her watching him as he slept sprawled out along the length of the Cullen's living room sofa.

Like Leah, Renesmee won't speak to him—not much, at least. The only difference is that she stays close to him when Bella does, constantly clutching at his hand.

He never notices her touch.

It's like drawing in a slow-motion breath after he's been drowning, or opening his eyes and seeing the world after being blind for a very long time. It's like he was bound, ropes tightened around his chest and constricting the flow of blood into his heart. But now it's like he's free, or almost free, and with the pressure no longer squeezing him, he can live.

Jacob pushes Billy up the makeshift ramp to Charlie's front door, chips and salsa nestled in Billy's lap. Jacob is about to reach for the bell when the door flies open, narrowly missing Billy's foot, and someone streaks past them and down the street, too fast to be human. Jacob catches the scent of Bella's laundry detergent and shampoo.

Charlie stands in the doorway, holding a covered casserole dish with his mouth opened slightly. He takes a moment to gather himself before remembering to hold open the door.

"What was that about?" Billy asks casually once he's inside. Charlie numbly sets the casserole dish on the table, placing the chips and salsa beside it.

"I don't even know," he says, shaking his head. "Bella just burst in here, shoved some lasagna at me, and kept saying she was sorry over and over again." He jerked his thumb toward the door. "You saw how she just took off like that."

Jacob used to wonder sometimes why Charlie didn't want to know the truth about Bella, about the Cullens, about all the other monsters and magic nobody ever thought existed. But maybe, he thinks for the first time, maybe Charlie already does know; and it's not that he doesn't care, but that it hurts to realize, to confirm, that he couldn't save his only child from destruction. He couldn't protect her.

But then again, nobody could.


The Clearwaters come twenty minutes later with a salad and a container of something they can all smell but can't see. Seth takes his eyes off it for a minute to glance between Jacob and Leah, the latter of whom is standing slightly behind Sue.

"Hey Jake!" he grins, half nervous, half calm. Leah rolls her eyes, but makes no further acknowledgement of anyone else in the room.

Sue shrugs helplessly and offers Charlie the food. "Anybody else here yet?" she asks.

"Nope," Billy tells her cheerfully. "Just us early birds so far."

"Can I go home, Mom?" Leah deadpans without pause.

Seth groans. "Aw, come on, Leah. Don't be lame."

"I'll be as lame as I want," she snaps.

This time, it's Seth who rolls his eyes. Jacob finds himself holding his breath until Sue tells Leah to sit down and deal with it.


He eventually corners her in the only place she'll go alone—the bathroom. It's awkward, and Leah's less than pleased to look into the mirror and find him standing behind her.

"I really have to pee, Jacob," she scowls.

"I need to talk to you."

"No. You just think you do. And here's a newsflash: I don't want to talk to you. So get the hell out of here and leave me alone!"

He doesn't flinch; he's prepared himself for this. "Just shut up, Leah, and listen. I don't get why you're still pissed off at me… And you know, I don't even know why you're pissed off at all. I didn't give up, or whatever it was you said I did, even if I haven't really tried to 'fight it.' I imprinted, Leah. I can't just get over that when someone snaps their fingers. I mean… wouldn't Sam have stayed with you if he could?"

Again, he prepares himself for the pain in her expression, but it doesn't come.

"But I think," he continues, "I mean… I don't know. Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm at least a little different, and kind of a hypocrite. Even if it wouldn't have done anything, I could've tried harder to be more like I used to be."

Leah swallows. "Yeah. Yeah, you could've."

He opens his mouth, ready to plow on through the rest of his speech now that it seems like she's relatively calm, but this plan amounts to nothing.

Because suddenly, she grabs a fistful of his shirt and kisses him.

Jacob has never thought about kissing Leah before—it's always been Bella, and it was someday supposed to be Renesmee. But he abruptly wonders why he hasn't.

Leah's mouth is hot and searing against his, still slightly angry, and there's a desperation to it that makes her seem not weak, but stronger. His heart pounds rapidly against her chest as his fingers rake roughly through her hair.

Jacob remembers kissing Bella. He remembers losing himself, and he remembers being careful.

There's nothing careful about pinning Leah to the bathroom wall.

Yet just as suddenly as she initiated it, she breaks away. In her eyes, there linger the unfamiliar traces of fear.

"Shit," she says, and, ducking out from underneath his arms, she bolts. Jacob hears the front door slam.

"Everybody okay?" Charlie calls from the family room.

"Yeah," Jacob says. His breaths are heavy.

Bella wasn't the only one you used to cheer up without even meaning to.


That night, he dreams he's running through the woods. Wet leaves glide against his fur, and twigs snap beneath his paws. He's going in circles, he thinks, and it's too dark for him to see.

Without any warning, the trees break and he comes upon a clearing divided by two paths. At the head of one paces a wolf, smaller than himself, that tries pleadingly to catch his eye. At the head of the other is a pure white lamb trapped between the paws of a lion.

"I'm sorry," the lamb bleats. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"


It's only a matter of time before it happens. It, as in everything that matters, the climax of this twisted story that has become his existence. The end of the final Act looms.

Jacob wakes up on a morning two days later just like any other. He's thought about Leah, about Bella. He's thought about Renesmee. And the combination of thoughts about all three confuses him.

It's only until after he's rubbed the sleep from his eyes that he realizes it's happened. It, as in the first step he thought he'd never be able to take. Because for the first time, Renesmee crosses his mind and he doesn't feel that pull, that ache. Instead, his head feels clear and his heart, for a few solid minutes, beats for Jacob himself; it doesn't beat for Bella, or Bella's daughter, or Leah—Bella's antithesis. It beats for Jacob as the thing at his very core that's keeping him alive. His lungs are filled, his eyes are open.

That's when the phone rings.


He meets Bella in the back of Forks High School, where it's nondescript enough that Alice won't have seen her coming here, even if all visions will cease as soon as Jacob hops the fence.

Bella smiles at him nervously as he walks toward her, and there's something about her expression today that causes him to grin back. Before, he would have been concerned; an urgent phone call and a secret meeting could have meant that someone—perhaps Renesmee—was hurt. But that sort of notion seems stupid now. Renesmee can't be hurt, at least not in the physical sense, and it feels like such a waste of time that he ever worried about her at all.

He's almost to her when she flies at him, her arms wrapping around him in a tight embrace. She's stronger than she used to be, but still light, so he doesn't topple backward; he does choke at her sudden closeness, though, the stench far too strong for a second far too long. She buries her head against his chest and inhales.

"Uh, Bella?"

"Oh, Jake," she sighs. "You're back!"

He can't help it; he wraps his arms around her, ignoring the sting of her cold flesh. He's warm enough for the both of them, anyway.

"I didn't go anywhere," he says. Except that he did, and he knows it's what Bella means.

He's tempted to bend down and bury his nose in her hair like he used to, but he can't bring himself to be that close just yet.

"Oh, Jake," she says again, pulling away just enough to gaze up at him. "I made… I think I made the biggest mistake."

He had a dream like this once, and he wonders if in the next thirty seconds he's going to wake up.

"I never thought this would happen," she continues, "but it did, and now I don't—oh, God. I'm so miserable. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I—"

"But you never do. I know, Bells."

She sniffs as if she's crying, but vampires don't have tears.

"You always knew," she moans. "You always knew. I thought I'd be happy with Edward, but you always knew I wouldn't be. I thought I wanted to be with him, and be just like him for the rest of my life. But how am I supposed to be happy when I'm dead and I'm still in love with you?"

Jacob freezes, time stops.

"You were always like the sun to me." She smiles. "My own personal sun. When you were around me, I felt so alive. But I took that for granted, because when you were gone—when you weren't mine anymore—I was this—this—statue. This perfect, cold, awful thing. I don't have any light of my own, Jake. You were always that for me. And I didn't"—her voice is shaking badly now, almost human—"I didn't notice that. God!" She digs the heels of her hands into her eyes out of habit. "With Edward, every day is the same. I can't… I can't even sleep through part of it, either. I have to be awake and endure every static minute. And then to see Renesmee with you, when I knew you hated her for what she did to me… To see you look at her how—how you used to look at me! It's been so hard for me, Jake!"

His palms rub circles upon her back, but he doesn't speak, in case that's all it takes to shatter the spell.

"I don't want to be around them anymore—I can't be. Edward and… the other Cullens. Renesmee. When I look at her, I see him, and then I think of you, and I—I—can't." She grits her teeth. "I need you, Jake."

Bella loosens her hold, steps back, and stands on tiptoe. And she kisses him slowly, cold lips waxing warm against his.

This is everything he's ever wanted, all he ever used to ask for: Bella, here (or anywhere), with him.

Her delicate hands lace around him gently, pulling him ever closer. His own hands are on the small of her back, and he is a rock, holding her steady.

It isn't at all like it was with Leah.

The thought enters, abruptly and unwelcome, into his mind, and he tries to push it out. Leah just got carried away, is all. She's still in love with Sam. She shouldn't matter when Bella—when Bella is right here.

Bella isn't the only one you used to cheer up without even meaning to.

"I want to spend forever with you," Bella breathes. "I want you to be there with me at the end of the world."

"I don't want to live forever, Bells."

He doesn't know what makes him say it, in between a kiss and a breath. But once it's out, he knows there's no way to take it back.

It's the truth, after all. He shouldn't have to lie to her like everyone else.

Bella stops. "What?"

Jacob sighs. If only he'd kept his mouth shut for another minute more. "I don't… want to live forever. I never would've been one of those guys who looked for the secret to immortality. I want to live, Bella, but I'm not afraid of death. I can stop phasing any time I want, and then I can finally have a normal life."

Bella's fingers dig into his chest, her eyes wide in terror. "But what about me?" she asks, panicked. "What about me, Jake? I don't get a choice! I have to live forever!"

But you had a choice, he thinks. You just chose wrong.

Even though he doesn't say it, she reads the words in his eyes.

"Oh my God," she whispers, at last letting go. "Oh my God."

"I love you, Bells," Jacob murmurs, brushing aside a stray strand of hair. "I want to be with you more than anything, you have no idea."

"But you won't live forever for me."

"Not for anyone."

She gasps and chokes, shakes with dry sobs that wrack over her like torture. "You'll be leaving me," she whimpers. "Someday you'll die, you'll leave me. And I won't know what to do. How am I supposed to live without you? I can't, Jake. I can't—oh, God!"

"Hey," he says softly. "Hey. I'm not planning on dropping dead anytime soon. At this rate, we've probably got at least another century together. I'll be with you for that long."

"It's not enough! Who's going to put me back together again when you're gone? I'll have no one left!" She staggers backward clumsily. "I just don't understand how you could do this to me."

I, I, me, me, me, mememememememe.

"It isn't just about you, Bella. It can't always be, at least. You don't need somebody to take care of you for eternity, why don't you get that?"

He's feeling cold now, and angry. Icy anger.

"Look what you've done to Charlie!" he shouts. "Look what you've done to your mom! To everyone who cares about you—even him! You had your choice, Bella, and you threw it away. How could you be so selfish?"

"But I—" Her voice breaks. "But I need you, Jake."

"No." He shakes his head. "You just think you do."

Jacob turns.

And he walks away.


"Leah! Jake's here to see you, and you better open your door before he accidentally walks in on you naked!"

"Fuck off, Seth!" Leah snarls in response.

Seth shrugs. "You could probably wait for her to come out to eat," he tells Jacob, "but that could take a while. And she won't be in a better mood, trust me."


So it's now, or it's never.


Her legs are half out the window before he even gets the door fully open.

"Jesus, Leah! Wait!"

She twists her torso around to glare at him. "I thought I told you to fuck off."

"Just Seth, actually."

Before she can slide out the rest of the way, he jumps across the room and grabs her wrist.

"Let go of me," she hisses.


"Let. Go."


She halts, seeming calm, then she frantically tears at his hand with her nails. "LET GO!"

"Ow! Okay!" he scowls, loosening his grip. A thin bloody line runs along the back of his hand briefly before the cut behind it heals.

Leah looks mildly ashamed, but she purses her lips stubbornly. "You deserved that." She pauses. "And I'm not gonna make out with you again. That was stupid."

"Bella's still in love with me," Jacob blurts.

Her face goes rigid, her lips forming themselves into a snarl. "Oh, well that's just fucking beautiful, thanks for telling me. What a fucking fairytale, living happily ever after foreve—"

"Leah. I fought it."

"You what?"

"I don't want to live forever. There's no point."

Leah hesitates before hoisting herself back through the window and into her room. "But you love her."

"Sure, sure. But I can't be with her. Save her."

She snorts. "So what, you think you can come and save me, now?"

He snorts back. "Yeah, right. Like you'd let me. But maybe I can… I don't know. Help you save yourself."

"That's corny, Jacob."

"Gimme a break. I've been hanging out with vampires."

She tries to look annoyed, but there's a smile twitching beneath her mask. "This is insane."

"Yeah, well, you're kind of a nut job yourself, so I'm pretty sure it'll work out."

Leah drums her fingers against the sill, rare afternoon sunlight bathing them. "This whole saving me thing," she starts. "What exactly did you have in mind?"

Jacob scratches his head sheepishly. "We could… I dunno. Go somewhere? Take a trip? Run away for a while and put some distance between us and—here? Guess I didn't exactly get that far."

"Well…" She licks her lips, a gleam in her eye. "Let's go break down a few walls and figure it out."

The End