Pawprints

Summary: After a terrible accident and with Edward now irrevocably out of the picture, Bella finds shelter and comfort in Jacob's arms- and he learns that love comes unbidden, not when forced. BSJB

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, Twilight, Edward Cullen, and Jacob Black are not mine. Meyer can keep Bella, though.

A/N: I know that the Edward girls are going to come running and screaming. Please, no flames. Let's be mature, okay?

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Chapter 1: Rain

It was pouring, and the Black house was, as it always did, creaking and moaning in the rain.

Jacob lay on his bed in his human form, his head buried beneath the pillow, as if the downy feathers trapped within the cloth could somehow suffocate him.

It was one of those days.

The wedding was in less than forty-eight hours, and he found that he couldn't fully escape the pain, even as a werewolf. Bella was marrying the bloodsucker, and would be joined to him both in this world and whatever pitiful existence she'd endure as one of them.

Sometimes, he could forget himself, forget his feelings, forget the pain that had withered his heart and stolen the sincerity from his smile. In his dreams, he had her and the picture she had painted in his mind of their own house and children running about the lawn – their children. In his dreams, he felt whole.

Today, however, he was lost. His emotions matched the tumultuous waves just below the cliffs, and he couldn't banish the thought of that damned wedding from his mind. He hadn't slept the night before and had gone out on patrol that morning, and his body complained loudly about the exhaustion it felt even as his mind refused to shut down.

The pillow rested softly on his head, and the warmth his body produced was trapped within the blankets. He felt the tears ebb and his eyes close.

He stood in the corner of a beautiful sunlit clearing, the one once filled with fighting, ferocious vampires. The stench of them that he remembered so vividly was gone, replaced by the scent of hundreds of lilies and roses. The flowers were set up around the clearing and lined an aisle that was created in the space between two groups of chairs. In each group were five rows of six folding white chairs that were draped in a flowing turquoise fabric. Across the clearing from him stood a minister at an altar.

He was in a black tuxedo, a turquoise tie made of the same fabric draped on the chairs was around his muscular neck, a matching vest under the jacket. He wasn't just at a wedding, he was part of the wedding.

The minister's reedy voice broke the shock.

"Mr. Black? You may take your place at the altar now."

Jacob started. It was his wedding. However, before he could move, he saw a man stroll to the altar and stand in his place. Jacob couldn't see the man's face, but he assumed it was himself. Vaguely, he wondered why he was viewing a copy of himself and why he hadn't moved from his corner, but he pushed the thought away as the music began to play from an unknown source.

The Wedding March. No bridesmaids filed in before the bride, and there was no audience to stand when she entered. But enter she did, with no father at her side, and just like every time he saw her, Bella Swan took his breath away.

Her veil was already pulled back, and her eyes sparkled in her pale, beautiful face. Her dress was in an older style, with a high neck and delicate lace sleeves that went down to her wrists. Her dark hair curled softly about her cheeks and shoulders. She passed by his corner and Jacob was afforded only a look at the back of her as she approached the altar.

He saw how her forcefully graceful steps took her to stand in front of the minister and next to the man whose face was now hit by a ray of sunshine. His skin sparkled like a thousand shards of ice as he turned towards Jacob's corner and slinked his arm around Bella's waist.

The man's face contorted itself into a leer, and the golden eyes flicked towards Bella hungrily.

Edward Cullen. The bloodsucker.

The vampire had taken his place. Jacob's rightful place.

The whimper that escaped Jacob's lips quickly turned into a howl of pure horror. All the hope and happiness he had felt at the start of this nightmare was ripped away from him again as Cullen has the audacity to wink at him, his howls unheard by the blushing bride.

A roar of a familiar engine captured all of their attention, however, and Jacob took his only chance to transform, and attack …

"Jacob? Jacob! Are you there?"

Pounding on the door to the house jerked Jacob out of his nightmare. He was sweating and breathing heavily as he sat straight up in bed, the pillow falling to the floor.

"Jacob, are you there?!"

He knew that voice. It was Bella; her shrill, panicked tones easily heard with his heightened auditory senses over the shrieking wind. He shot out of bed at once, not noticing that he was clad only in boxer shorts.

He quickly reached the door and yanked it open, revealing a very wet, shivering Bella whose fist was raised to pound on the door again. She was dressed in dark blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Her hair was plastered to her face, and hung dripping down her back. In her hands were the keys to her truck, which was parked just across the road. The rain had washed away the stench of the vampires, leaving her smelling just as he remembered: flowery and sweet, but not sickeningly so.

He looked down at her, the involuntary smile from her unexpected arrival dropping from his lips when he saw her eyes. They were red from crying, the white around the chocolate irises bloodshot. The tears were still in her eyes, and there was a smear of blood across her forehead.

It was then that he noticed the partly dried blood on her shirt and pants that was turning his porch red as the rain washed it away. Her shoulders were tense, and her eyes were empty and numb despite the tears.

"Bella?" he asked, extending a hand out to her.

"Jake," she whispered, the energy she had used pounding on his door all but spent. "He… he…"

His eyes narrowed as her voice filled with pain and her shoulders began to crumple. She wrapped her arms around herself, as if desperate to keep the pieces of her body together.

"He what, Bel? Who's he?" Jacob nearly growled, various scenarios involving that damned Cullen flashing through his mind. The bloodsucker hurt her.

"He k-killed Charlie," she managed to choke out, the tears starting anew as she fell to her knees- and it was lucky that she did, for in that moment, Jacob lost control.