P.S. I Love You
Chapter 9: The Fish and the Eagle
A/N: Short, but essential. Song: "Higher Window" by Josh Groban. Yes, I love his music.
"I don't know how I can practice using my shield with no one to use it against," I grumbled to Jasper, Jacob, Seth, and Alice. Leah was still in her wolf form, nearby, but most of the wolves had changed to their human forms. Sam was sitting surprisingly close to Carlisle, deep in conversation. Paul, Jared, Quil, and Embry were talking to Emmett and Rosalie. Esme was wandering from group to group, offering food and beverage to the wolves, most of which they accepted.
"I can try to teach you the feel of it, but a target would be preferable," Jasper agreed. "When I trained gifted newborns, before, their gifts were much easier to test…"
"Willow's gift is probably mental, right?" I asked. "Her invisibility is probably just an illusion. I'll be able to see her. You said Gabriel won't be able to track me. Allegra's telekinesis must be physical, though and Michael…"
"Mental," Alice said confidently. "He erases and restores memory, literally delving into the mind. We'll be safe."
"You mean I'll be safe," I corrected. "There's no guarantee I'll be able to protect the rest of you."
"We'll figure it out, Bella," Jasper assured me. "I'll teach you the feel of it, and we'll figure the rest out as we go."
"It would be nice if we could get Kate to come help out," Alice mused, "but I already saw her answer: she won't upset Irina that way. We'll just have to wait until they'll let what happened with Laurent go."
"At least she isn't going completely psycho over it, like Victoria," Seth commented. "We'd have a real mess on our hands, then."
"They know Laurent was doing wrong," Jasper murmured, "even if they don't agree with how it was handled. You don't need to worry. They'll cool off, eventually."
"How do vamps define 'eventually'?" Jacob grumbled.
"Five or six decades, maybe," Alice answered. I gasped in alarm and stared at her.
"It's not the grief that lasts that long, Bella," she quickly explained, "it's the unresolved grudge. We'll destroy Victoria, and that will help you move on much faster. You'll be okay."
"But I don't feel like I have a true grudge against Victoria," I argued. "I hate her, and I want her gone, but it's for different reasons. Having her around scares me, for my sake and all of yours, and I want her gone so we'll be safe again, but I don't feel like I'm obsessed with getting revenge, or anything like that. I miss Edward, and I want her dead, but it's not the same. Killing her isn't just going to make everything okay, again."
"I didn't say that," Alice said gently, her voice full of sympathy. I felt Jasper trying to soothe the both of us. "I said it will help you move on faster. Bella, you have to trust me on this. I've seen you becoming happy, again. I've seen you with a better life. It will get better, one step at a time. This will just be one of many steps, but you will get there. I know it."
"Your visions aren't always certain, Alice," I argued bitterly. "Nothing is…". Frustrated and hurting, I decided to go hunt. Taking the hint that I needed space, no one followed, at first. I ran through the woods, sniffing the air for the scent of a good carnivore, but when the wind changed direction, I was suddenly buffeted by an especially foul and familiar smell.
"Jake, please go back," I called to the wolf running up behind me, even as I slowed my pace, allowing him to catch up. I was already feeling guilty for my bout of hostility, but I still didn't want company, at the moment. "I'm hunting. You don't want to watch that, do you? Please go away." Glancing back, I could see him a few yards behind me. He met my gaze and shook his head. I didn't have it in me to argue further. "Fine, but give me a little space. Your smell is overpowering everything else." Jacob barked a laugh, but compliantly fell back about twenty more yards. I could still smell and hear him, but I could focus on other smells, again.
I couldn't find a carnivore, but I took down a few elk. Jake kept a respectful distance through the whole process, but remained close enough that I was constantly aware of his presence. At first, it annoyed me, but then it started to calm me. It was nice having an old friend nearby, one that couldn't care less about my powers or old vampire wars. He was involved in all this because we were friends, simple as that. Any romantic notions he used to harbor for me were surely gone, now that I was a vampire. We were natural enemies, but still best friends. I took comfort in that thought, and I was quickly able to calm down again, after the hunt. I sat and waited for Jake while he phased back to human form and dressed, so we could talk while we headed back. When he reemerged from the trees, we walked back toward the house at human pace.
"You know, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," he mused as we walked. "Watching you hunt, I mean."
"If you thought you would hate it, why did you come?"
"I knew you would want to talk, eventually. You were just being stubborn, as always."
"And you're still full of yourself." That got us both laughing. Even with all the chaos around us, left alone like this, we were still just Jacob and Bella.
"Anyway, it wasn't all that bad," Jake continued. "Actually, it was kind of… Sexy." Yep. Same old Jacob.
"Jake, please don't start that. Not now."
"I thought you wanted me to."
"What makes you think that?"
"I've just seen it in your eyes a few times. At first, you were just sad about Edward, but then there was something else."
"There was nothing else, Jacob."
"Yes there was. You're not ready to admit it, though. I can see that. I'm not blind. I can give you a little more time. It's not like we won't have plenty of it."
"You're impossible!" I finally snapped, picking up my pace so Jacob had to jog to keep up. "Why do you have to be so pushy?! I'm a vampire! You're a werewolf! A shape-shifter! If we couldn't work, before, there's no way we'll work, now!"
"We can if we love each other," Jake countered. "I still love you, and you told me you loved me."
"That was before!"
"Before your change?" Jacob snorted. "Bella, the only thing that's changed is your appearance. You're still you. I was worried you might not be, but you are. That hasn't changed, so don't try to tell me your feelings for me have. I know the timing's off, and I'm sorry I brought it up. That was stupid, I get that, but don't try to lie about it. You're only lying to yourself."
"Maybe I want to lie to myself!" I growled, stopping in my tracks and rounding on him, furious. "Maybe I want to forget Edward's gone! Maybe I want to, somehow, convince myself that he's just off hiding somewhere and sending me letters to prove to me that he's going to come back! Maybe I want to believe I'm not still being hunted by Victoria! Maybe I want to pretend Maria doesn't exist! I can't handle all this right now, Jake! It's like you said: I'm still me! I'm still the same person I always was, and this is killing me!"
Jacob was perfectly still, watching me with sad, patient eyes. He stood there for a long moment, waiting. When he could tell I was done screaming, he stepped closer to me, obviously not concerned about me attacking him. He moved closer until he could reach out and take my cold hand in his hot one, holding my gaze the entire time.
"I know," he finally said, his voice as soft and warm as his hand. "That's why I'm here."
"Jake," I sighed, shaking my head feebly.
"Bella, I'll give you all the time you need," Jacob said gently. "I'll just be your friend, for now, but you needed to know that my feelings for you haven't changed. I'll be the shoulder, for now, but I want to be more than that, later. I love you. I want to love you."
"Jacob…" I had to argue. This couldn't end well. It would only hurt us both, all over again. "Do you remember the fish and the eagle?" Jacob blinked and took a step back, confused. After a moment, I saw recollection flash in his brown eyes, and I nodded. "One day, on the beach, we saw an eagle dive down and snatch a fish out of the water. You told me 'you never see the fish trying to kiss the eagle'. Nature's way, you called it. Hunter and prey. You said humans and vampires weren't supposed to be together. How are shifters and vampires any different? How does that rule not apply to the two of us?"
"That rule never did apply, Bella," Jake grumbled obstinately. "You and Edward made it work. I was just being an ass about it, then. It didn't apply to you two, and it doesn't have to apply to us. We go against nature, so what? Normal has never been our style, anyway."
"Well, that's true," I conceded. "Still, Jake, we can't… I can't do that, not again. You can only cheat fate so many times before it finally grabs you from behind." Jacob, persistent as always, promptly moved around behind me and wrapped his arms around me.
"Nothing's going to sneak up on you from behind, Bella. I've got your back. Always."
Tired of arguing, I twisted around in Jacob's arms, so I could wrap my stone arms around him, too. He only tensed for a moment when my cold hands touched his bare back. "And I've got your back, Jake. Even if everything else changes, that never will. We're still friends."
"For now," Jacob promised.
"Forever," I countered. "Just friends."
"You'll change your mind. You did, before."
"Jerk." Jacob just laughed. For a moment, I considered punching him, again… But then I laughed, too.
That night, I found another letter from Edward on my bed:
My Darling Bella,
I just want you to know that I hold no grudge against Jacob, or any of the other wolves. In fact, I encourage you to maintain those friendships, if you can. They're like family to you, too. I see that, now, even if I was blind to it, before. Any prejudice I used to feel toward them is entirely gone, and it's a good feeling, I must admit. I trust them wholeheartedly with you, just as I trust you to do well by them. Whether you continue to see them as friends, family, or even something more than that, it's your choice, my Bella. Listen to your heart. Even if it no longer beats within you, it's voice can still be heard. Listen to what it tells you, and be happy, dear Bella. Above all, be happy.
P.S. I love you.