A/N: Well guys, this is my first attempt at writing a fic, so I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy being in Jake's head. I'm quite comfortable there; it's full of snark and just the right amount of sarcasm. I plan to continue writing in JPOV. :)
This is dedicated to AHelm, my wonderful beta and one of my favorite people in the world. Thanks for the encouragement, I could have never done this without you. ILYSFM, plain and simple. And to all my MoW girls, you are the best! Love, love, love.
Things I own include (but are not limited to) a million pairs of flip-flops, a Macbook Pro, and a sarcastic attitude. You'll notice I didn't mention Jacob Black, Bella Swan, or any other character from the Twilight Series. All property of Stephenie Meyer, of course. Le sigh.
I jogged up the path to my house as fast as I could without flat-out sprinting in an effort to beat the storm clouds that were now blanketing the skies of La Push. One may assume that living on the Olympic Peninsula your entire life would all but numb you to the near-constant downpours that painted the skies much more often than the sunshine.
One would be wrong.
It was not as if I hated the rain; I just generally preferred the elusive sun. I was an eternally optimistic person, and the sun tended to make me even happier in general. I thought back to the last brightly-sunlit day that I had spent on the beach, only days ago. It was unseasonably warm outside for January, and the sun seemed to be enjoying the fact that there was not a cloud in sight to hide behind. As we walked along the water, Quil had tried to convince Embry and I that it would be a great idea to go cliff-diving off one the highest ledges that lined First Beach. Quil made fun of us for being "little girls" when we opted for the ledge a bit further down the mountainside, but as soon as he got to the top, he had decided it was a bit too high as well.
"Do you need a tampon?" I had asked innocently, and his response came in the form of an open-handed smack to the back of my head. Embry was busy howling with laughter on the other side of me so he didn't see Quil's fist coming until it was too late – when it landed forcefully in the center of his stomach. I chuckled to myself at the memory. Quil always thought he was such a badass.
As if to prove a point, a few drops splashed my skin and brought me back to an increasingly rain-soaked reality. I glared up at the sky as if it had personally offended me. Yeah, yeah, I'm going.
The rain continued its hard, steady rhythm while I hauled ass up the walkway to my house. As I ambled through the doorway, I briefly considered the fact that I had all but sprinted the entire way home and wasn't even out of breath. In the past few months, I had shot up several inches in height and my body had reshaped itself in a way that was probably better suited for an Olympic athlete than a sixteen-year-old boy. I absently chalked it up to good genes and a post-pubescent growth spurt as I walked through our tiny living room to find my father.
"Hi, Dad," I greeted him when I found him at the kitchen table reading the newspaper.
"Hey, Jake," Billy answered as he put the paper down and rolled his wheelchair towards me. "How was your afternoon?"
"Fine. I hung out on the beach with Embry until the storm rolled in." I recounted my uneventful day as I pulled my wet hair out of its rubber band in hopes that it would dry faster. "He and Quil might stop by later."
"They always do," he mumbled as he laughed softly to himself.
I turned my back on him and opened the refrigerator, poking around at what little I saw before me. "I was going to go out to the garage to work on the Rabbit, but I figured I'd see if you wanted me to pick up something for dinner first. There is no food in this house, Dad."
I continued to glare at the nearly empty shelves, foolishly hoping that something was hiding and would leap out at me. But when I realized that my father hadn't responded yet, I shut the fridge and turned to face him.
Billy had recently taken to staring at me in a very peculiar way. It was a calm yet calculating look, as if he was waiting for me to do something out of the ordinary. He was staring at me that way now.
"Um, did you hear what I just said? Do you want me to get some dinner?" I waved my hand in front of his face.
"Oh, no thanks, Jake," he snapped out of his trance and shook his head as he rolled into the living room. He grabbed a thick book off the end table. "Don't worry about me."
"Sure, sure," I muttered under my breath as I followed him into the living room. Crazy old man.
He faced his chair towards the television even though he already seemed to be immersed in whatever book he had on his lap. I plopped down on the couch to the left of his chair, deciding to dry off a bit before heading out to my makeshift garage.
For what seemed like the hundredth time in the past few weeks, I became frustrated as I wondered what was the deal was with my father and his newfound staring problem. I would often catch him looking at me out of the corner of his eye when we were watching television or eating dinner, and when we were around the reservation he and the other tribe elders seemed to tiptoe around my feelings as if they thought I would snap at any minute. (For the record, literally tiptoeing around a boy my size is not an easy thing to do.) I was a perpetually happy kid. I had no reason to be angry or sad; I practically skipped through my day-to-day life as if I'd just won a million dollars. Everything was great.
What. The. Hell.
I was opening my mouth to verbalize my thoughts to my father when I heard the rumble of a familiar engine approaching my house.
Did Charlie need some work done on the truck? I wondered as I turned to look out the window. Of course it wouldn't be—
My thoughts were cut short as I spotted the brown-haired girl climbing out of the old Chevy and into the rain. My heart did a happy dance inside my chest as I jumped up and ran towards the front door, leaving my father with a bewildered expression on his face. My mind spared him one fleeting thought as I hurtled my lanky body through the doorway: Good to know your hearing is packing its bags and following closely behind your sanity, Dad.
I met her halfway to her truck.
"Bella!" As I excitedly greeted my long-lost friend, my smile stretched so wide that it actually hurt my face. I absent-mindedly tucked a strand of loose hair behind my ear as I stopped in front of her.
"Hey, Jacob!" Bella Swan smiled, and it brightened her strangely chalky pallor. Something briefly flashed in her eyes – was it shock? – and she looked up at me, letting the rain stream down her face.
I took a moment to look at her, to really look at her, and then it was my turn to be shocked. The deep, brown eyes that I loved were replaced with flat, shallow orbs that shined only with what appeared to be residual tears. Her face was sallow and pale and, now that I had taken notice of it, the rest of her seemed pretty fragile as well.
Where was the strong, bright girl I had come to know? What the hell had these last few months (in which we maintained virtually no contact) done to her? What had that stupid, red-haired boy—
"You grew again!" She exclaimed as I snapped back into reality.
"Six five," I declared with a laugh as I quickly shook off the thought of her ex-boyfriend. I really was quite thankful for my growth spurt. A little more muscle wouldn't hurt though, I added ruefully to myself.
"Is it ever going to stop? You're huge," Bella assessed with a disbelieving shake of her head.
"Still a beanpole, though." I made a face. Maybe she would like it if I started lifting to balance things out. "Come inside! You're getting all wet."
I pulled my hair back into its usual ponytail as I walked towards my house with Bella in tow.
"Hey, Dad," I called to my father. "Look who stopped by."
A smile stretched across Billy's face as he acknowledged the girl who stepped in the doorway just behind me. He wheeled himself forward, closing the book he had been reading and placing it in his lap.
"Well, what do you know! It's good to see you, Bella." He extended his hand and it enveloped hers in a tight handshake.
"What brings you out here?" he asked, suddenly concerned. "Everything okay with Charlie?"
"Yes, absolutely." She nodded quickly before she continued. "I just wanted to see Jacob – I haven't seen him in forever."
My heart skipped a beat (or perhaps several) and I felt my smile grow impossibly wider at her words. She wanted to see me, I mused happily.
"Can you stay for dinner?" my father asked. I thought back to my earlier offer to pick something up for dinner coupled with his subsequent refusal. I looked at him and raised an eyebrow, and his eyes sparkled back as he glanced in my direction.
Bella looked down at the floor. "No, I've got to feed Charlie, you know." Invite Charlie… Invite Charlie…
"I'll call him now. He's always invited." I silently thanked my father for his apparent clairvoyant tendencies.
"It's not like you'll never see me again," Bella replied as she looked back up at Billy and laughed. "I promise I'll be back again soon – so much you'll get sick of me."
My heart burst into a hummingbird-like tempo at the thought.
"Okay, maybe next time," Billy nodded and turned to roll his wheelchair back to the other side of the small living room.
I stood there for a moment, mentally appraising the girl to my right. I tried to be discreet about doing so, but discreet was never my thing. So as she turned to look at me expectantly, I blurted out, "So, Bella, what do you want to do?"
"Whatever," she fidgeted where she stood, as if she was eagerly holding something back. "What were you doing before I interrupted?"
I paused briefly, trying to think of other things we could do together. I was positive that she wouldn't want to spend the rest of the afternoon in my garage. "I was just heading out to work on my car, but we can do something else…"
"No, that's perfect!" She exclaimed as she straightened up and leaned back towards the door. "I'd love to see your car."
"Okay. It's out back, in the garage." The look on my face must have been priceless, full of uncertainty and curiosity. I turned and walked out the front door as she waved to my father.
As we walked through the thick bushes of my backyard and approached the garage, I internally ran through my own speculations regarding the real reason Isabella Swan had arrived at my house after so many months of silence. Not that I was complaining, of course.
If I was being honest, the girl walking behind me looked like a shell of the person who once existed. The words "lost soul" came to mind immediately, and I fought the urge to turn around and flat-out ask her what her life had been like since I'd seen her last. I'd never been one to hide my thoughts or feelings; I was a generally open person. But I had heard from Billy that Charlie was constantly distraught at the truth of the situation – his only child, his precious Bella, had taken to moving through life as though she was merely pretending. Playing a part. He described her as though she appeared to be going through the motions but never really feeling anything. I didn't want to bring it up if that were all true, as I suspected it was.
Well, this much was obvious – Bella had spent too long drowning in her own half-life and she desperately needed to be rescued. Someone needed to throw a lifesaver into the bottomless ocean of grief in which she had been attempting to stay afloat. I decided right there and then, in that silent 30-second walk to the garage, that I was going to be her lifesaver.
I was a damn good swimmer.
I tore myself out of my own head as we walked into my garage. I stopped a few feet away from it in order to admire it properly. My baby. My Volkswagen Rabbit.
I was like a proud papa.
"What kind of Volkswagen is that?" As Bella spoke, I became aware that she was the only person on earth that could pull me out of an automobile-related reverie. And that was saying something.
"It's an old Rabbit – 1986, a classic."
Bella walked around the side of the car and peered inside. "How's it going?"
"Almost finished," I replied happily. The thought practically made me giddy. I dropped my voice down to a whisper as I said, "My dad made good on his promise last spring."
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was mentally chastising myself – the shadow that darkened her face immediately was almost unbearable to witness. I'm not even sure that she noticed it was happening as she breathed a simple "ah," in response and turned away from me.
I was about to apologize for bringing up an obviously sensitive subject when she whipped back around to face me with an unmistakably determined look in her eyes. "Jacob, what do you know about motorcycles?"
"Some," I shrugged. "My friend Embry has a dirt bike. We work on it together sometimes. Why?"
"Well… I recently acquired a couple of bikes, and they're not in the greatest condition," she admitted. I was momentarily stunned – what on earth was Bella doing with two motorcycles? – but I was once again interrupted by her question. "I wonder if you could get them running?"
"Cool," I grinned at her. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed a challenge. Especially one that involved Bella Swan in any way. "I'll give it a try."
Well, of course I would give it a try. Would you ever say no to the girl of your dreams?
No, you most certainly would not.
I was most certainly not about to.
She held up a finger at me cautiously. "The thing is, Charlie doesn't approve of motorcycles. Honestly, he'd probably bust a vein in his forehead if he knew about this." I could picture that vein; I'd seen Charlie Swan angry before. The Crazy Enraged Vein did not work alone, either – its accomplice was dubbed The Purple-Faced Wonder, and its wrath entirely took over Charlie's mug. Terrifying, I tell you.
Unnecessarily, Bella added, "…So you can't tell Billy," to the end of her explanation.
I snorted. "Sure, sure. I understand."
"I'll pay you."
Oh, so the girl really had gone insane. "No," I refused. "I want to help. You can't pay me."
Her face turned contemplative. "Well… how about a trade, then? I only need one bike – and I'll need lessons, too." My already cheerful mood brightened considerably at the thought of spending time with Bella. "So how about this? I'll give you the other bike, and then you can teach me."
Dear Lord, thank you for gifting me with the ability to fix anything with an engine. And, while I've got your attention, thank you for bringing Isabella Swan back into my life. You are one seriously cool dude. Love, Jacob Black.
"Swee-eet," was the only response I could blubber at her. I'm such an idiot.
"Wait a sec – are you legal yet?" She asked. "When's your birthday?"
I stuck my bottom lip out and narrowed my eyes. "You missed it. I'm sixteen."
"Not that your age ever stopped you before. Sorry about your birthday."
"Don't worry about it. I missed yours. What are you, forty?"
"Close," she pouted. I grinned at her as a brilliant idea struck me.
"We'll have a joint party to make up for it."
"Sounds like a date." She nodded once. My eyes betrayed me as they widened with delight at the last word of her sentence.
Jesus, calm down. You two are friends. Reign in the hormones, for God's sake.
"Maybe when the bikes are finished – our present to ourselves," she added.
Where do I sign up?
"Deal. When will you bring them around?" I asked eagerly.
She looked uncomfortable as she bit her lip and pulled at the sleeve of her shirt. "They're in my truck now," she admitted.
All right, seriously, a random, disjointed voice in my head scolded. Get ahold of yourself, man.
"Will Billy see if we bring them around?"
"We'll be sneaky," I promised with a wink.
Who winks? Creepy old men, that's who. Smooth move, Jake.
We remained under the cover of the trees as we stalked along the side of my house. When we got to the truck, I lifted the motorcycles out of the bed with ease, inwardly hoping that my strength impressed her. I rolled each of them over into the bushes where Bella was standing, and I appraised them both once I was certain that we were in the clear. One seemed to be in worse shape than the other, but with a little work I figured they should run just fine.
"These aren't half bad," I told her as we walked through the thick wall of trees. "This one here will actually be worth something when I'm done – it's an old Harley Sprint.
"That one's yours, then," she decided quickly.
"Are you sure?" I breathed.
I frowned slightly and stopped walking. "These are going to take some cash, though. We'll have to save up for parts first."
"We nothing. If you're doing this for free, I'll pay for the parts."
"I don't know…"
"I've got some money saved. College fund, you know."
Bella was going to spend her college fund on two motorcycles that would only work in the first place if I fixed them? She was depending on me, and she wanted lessons afterwards?
I simply nodded. If I opened my mouth to speak at that moment, I was afraid of what would come out. Something ridiculously embarrassing, that much I was sure of.
We strolled back into the garage in silence, which left me yet again to my own thoughts – thoughts that focused on Bella and what was to come. I could make her happy again. I would make her happy again. Whether that job ended up in the form of a best friend or a boyfriend, I was not sure. But I didn't care. I knew what she needed – someone to be there for her. A companion, a support system. A perpetual ray of sunshine to break through her storm clouds.
Attention, Rainy Days: I am The Sun. Now get the hell outta my beautiful sky; you've stuck around for way too long.
Reviews are love. Especially because this is my debut in the fanfic world. ;)
(PS - I'll admit that it killed me a little inside to hate on Edward like I did, but it had to be done.)