Title: Cold (but I'm still here)

Chapter Seven: An Unlikely Alliance

Rating: Mature/for later chapters

Characters: Jacob/Vamp!Bella, OCs

Timeline: Takes place right after the events of Eclipse.

Summary: After the tragic death of his wife leaves Jacob completely devastated, he is forced to return to La Push after being gone for over eight years. In tow is his four year -old son Ethan, whom Jacob hopes that, with a change of scenario and the help of family and old friends, both he and Ethan will find a way to make peace with the curveball that life has dealt them.

Disclaimer: All characters that belong to Stephenie Meyer belong to Stephenie Meyer, I'm just borrowing. Also, the title is named after Evans Blue's song, Cold (But I'm Still Here).

Special thanks: Asher! Her email of encouragement gave me quite a pep. I'd started on this chapter a while ago, but I didn't have the drive to finish. Plus, classes started and I'm sure some of you know how that goes. Yes, I'm full of sorry excuses.

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Chapter Seven:

An Unlikely Alliance

When Jacob arrived at Sam and Emily's place, the barbeque was still going strong. He'd been at Bella's house for about three hours and though a few rain clouds managed to overshadow the sun, he was still confident that he could make the most of the day with Ethan and the rest of the guys. As a matter of fact in his current mood, he sort of depended on it.

"Well look who finally decided to crash the party!" He heard from up ahead and already he could feel a smile forming on his lips. With a grin, he made his way forward, up onto the front porch where Embry, Seth, and Leah's boyfriend, David sat at ease.

He greeted them all with a slight nod and let out a relieved, thankful sigh when Embry passed him a beer from the cooler by his feet. He leaned against the wooden railing and drank, silently ignoring Embry's amused chuckle as he took a swig of his own.

"So how was your day?" Seth grinned, lounging in an old beach chair.

"Long," Jacob admitted, taking another drink of his beer. Seth's tone was neither coy nor accusing, but Jacob knew for certain that Emily had filled him and the others in on his whereabouts before the party. Hell, even if he wanted to lie about the whole meeting, there was no use. Bella's scent was all over him and the not so subtle twitching of Embry's nose as he stared said it all.

In fact, the only person present and completely oblivious to his current predicament was David and this was only because he was not like them. David wasn't a wolf, but simply an ordinary guy and Jake knew with certainty that it was due to his strictly human status that Leah was finally willing to let down her guard and fall in love again.

"You do look a little beat man," David nodded. He tucked a long lock of brown hair behind his ear.

Jacob didn't know him very well, but David seemed like a decent enough guy. He obviously loved Leah since he knew their secret and still made the choice to be with her. Also, he had to applaud any guy who would willingly put himself under Leah's thumb. Sure, she wasn't as bitter as she used to be (the love of a good woman, or in her case, a good man, was known to have that effect), but she still wasn't someone to be crossed.

"Yeah, you know I hear those vampire/werewolf romances can be very draining," Seth quipped in amusement, but Jacob didn't find it funny at all. Without warning, he threw his empty beer bottle at Seth's head, but the kid had quick reflexes. Poor David almost wasn't so lucky.

"What?" Seth smiled, obviously unfazed. "Too soon?"

Jacob merely rolled his eyes. This was all he needed.

After the whole talk with Bella, he just wanted to relax with the guys but apparently that wasn't going to happen; especially if Seth was determined to be such a dick about the whole thing.

"Seth, shut up," Embry warned, but the young wolf ignored him.

"I'm just saying what everyone in the pack is thinking," he claimed, gesturing to Jacob. "Look at him—one afternoon alone with her and already he looks like someone did a Jedi mind trick on him."

"Excuse me," Jacob pushed himself off the railing and took a menacing step toward Seth.

Is that really what he thought? That after one afternoon with Bella, he would actually cave in and try to pretend like nothing's happened? Like nothing's changed in the past eight years?

Ever since he'd gotten back, Jacob felt like Seth wasn't all too forgiving of him making the choice to leave La Push. At the time, he really couldn't be bothered to care either way given the reason for his return home but now, watching Seth become so antagonistic towards him when in the past he'd practically hero worshipped him—it made Jacob wondered. Seth had been by the house plenty of times and he'd never acted like this. He never really hinted that there was something that needed to be addressed in their relationship but then again, Jacob had been so wrapped up in himself that he doubted he would have noticed anyway.

He stopped when Embry stood, putting a hand on his chest to hold him back if needed. "Seth, seriously give it a rest."

"Oh please tell me we're not gonna do this," he challenged. "We're just gonna ignore what's happening here?"

"It's not our business Seth," Embry was trying to be the diplomatic one; the referee between them, but Jacob hated that they were talking about him like he wasn't even there. "If he wanted to tell us about it, he would have."

The young wolf scoffed, "It's not like we won't hear about it anyway." He leaned forward in his chair and Jacob could hear the dread in his voice. "Bella is gonna tell Emily and Emily of course is gonna tell Sam, and then he won't have a choice but to share the news with us," Seth shrugged. "I don't know about you, but I'd rather hear it from the wolf's mouth. It lets me know what to expect because you know just as well as I do that this is not gonna end well."

"Damn Seth, I didn't know that what I did had such an effect on your life." Jacob meant it as a simple jab but when Seth said, "Of course, you never do," Jacob was stunned.

What the hell does that mean?

He felt like Seth was asking him to apologize for something although he was sure that he hadn't done anything wrong. "All we did was talk, what's wrong with that?" Was this what he'd been reduced to—members of the pack putting stock into how he and Bella would come out of this whole thing once the dust settled?

As if reading his thoughts, Embry said, "Jake, no. That's not how it is. Sam already told us about how Emily cornered you and if it makes you feel any better, I think you never stood a chance. When she gets her mind set on something, that's usually how it goes these days."

Jacob snorted, looking away. It was pathetic, but it actually did make him feel better.

He had no idea what Seth's problem was, but the idea that he'd made the conscious choice to head back into the lion's den, sorta speak, even with some coaxing didn't sit well with him. Neither did Seth's implications of what was going on. At this point, he wasn't interested in starting a romance with anyone, let alone Bella Cullen. He made sure to remind himself that even though she'd left Edward, she never mentioned that she'd gotten a divorce so he could only assume that was still tied to the bloodsucker. Also, the whole prospect of going there with someone else again made him ill.

Lily was gone and though he was slowly making peace with that (what other choice was there?), he felt guilty that he was entertaining Bella and whatever reasons she had for being here rather than simply grieving over his wife. What was even sadder was that even though Emily was a justification, an excuse for a visit this soon; it didn't necessarily mean that he wouldn't have gone on his own to see Bella eventually. Jacob wondered what that really said about him. The more he thought about it, the more he hated himself because it was wrong. Lily had been gone for six months and already there was another woman occupying his thoughts. Granted, she'd occupied his thoughts before Lily even entered the picture, but it still didn't make it right.

"And why does me, going to see Bella, bother you anyway Seth?" Jacob asked looking at him. "From what I understand, you guys have already made her an honorary member of the pack so what's the big deal?" A thought then crossed his mind. "Or maybe you're just upset that she left your BFF Edward to be with me?"

Jacob knew that at this point, he was just talking out his ass but whatever. He still wasn't convinced that Bella was here entirely for him, but since that was the general consensus; he would go with it for arguments sake.

"Oh don't even go there man." Seth rose to his feet, chest raised. "You always resented the fact that I didn't hate Edward, but that didn't mean that I didn't want to see you happy. That I didn't want you to get the girl, but she made her choice Jake and at the time, it wasn't you."

"So what's the problem now?" Jake wondered. He wanted to know why he was catching so much hell from the idea that he and Bella were becoming friends again. Just friends. He had no intentions of becoming anything more and it bugged him that people just assumed otherwise.

"You're lying to yourself Jake." Seth shook his head, solemn. "You and Bella can never just be friends. She ended her life to be with a man she thought she loved and somehow she ended up back here. Here waiting for you."

Jacob hunched his shoulders, at a loss. "And how is this my fault?"

He had no control over what Bella did and Seth knew that. If she was here and he was here, it didn't mean anything. He made it sound like they were destined to turn to each other, like he had no choice in the matter. Like he couldn't just walk away from this if things got to be too complicated. Or maybe that was the reason why he was so upset altogether.

Seth raised his hands in defeat. "I just don't want to see you get hurt again," he quietly admitted. Roughly brushing pass both men, he walked off the porch and around the back of the house.

With the young wolf out of sight, Jacob looked at Embry with wide eyes, his mouth slightly ajar. "What the hell was that about?"

"He's been holding that in for a while; just give him some time to cool off," he said, apologetic. He gave Jacob a reassuring pat on the chest as he sat back down. Jacob let out a heavy sigh as he leaned back against the railing.

"You know, I think I'm gonna go check on him," David spoke up. With a quick swig of his beer, he followed suit behind Seth.

What a relaxing day this turned out to be, Jacob thought dryly.

Bella's involvement with the pack was making things more complicated than he thought they would be. It was different than before. Sure, the pack had always given their two cents when it came to his and Bella's friendship but now that she was a vampire, it felt like they were actually entitled to have a say. Her being here, her being what she was, made her the pack's business.

"Where's Ethan?" he asked, eyes now roaming the open yard.

Since it was obvious that hanging with the guys wasn't the cure to lifting his mood, he looked for the little boy who'd done nothing but put a smile on his face since the day he was born.

"Last time I saw him, he was running around with Danny and the rest of the kids," Embry answered, looking around as well.

"I'm gonna go look for him."

"I'm sure he's fine Jake." Embry gestured to the festivities taking place around them. "Let the little guy run around and be free for a little while. You know, have fun."

Jacob couldn't help but grin, already heading into the house. "Spoken like someone who doesn't have kids."

"And doesn't plan on having them anytime soon," Embry stated, cracking open another beer. "I mean, I love E, Aimee, and Danny, but I'm more than comfortable being "Uncle Embry"…for now anyway."

It didn't take him long to find Ethan, even though the house was packed full of people. Some of them Jacob knew, some he didn't, but in order to find his son all he had to do was follow the smell of blood. The scent, though faint was also distinctive. It led him to the upstairs bathroom where he found Ethan seated on the counter, bouncy but in one piece. Crouched on the floor was an anxious looking Leah. She applied a band-aid to what appeared to be a scrapped knee. Nothing major, just a few drops of blood, but you wouldn't have known that from the way Leah was going on.

"Dude you've gotta be more careful for me," she practically pleaded. Jacob had to fight back the urged to laugh, especially when he saw the look on Ethan's face. "Are you sure you're all right?" she asked and Jacob knew it wasn't the first time she'd done so.

Ethan smiled. "I think I'll live Aunt Leah."

Leah was being a bit overprotective, but it was easy to see that it all came from a good place. She pulled down Ethan's pant leg before standing up straight. "I'm glad to see that my worrying amuses you," she grinned before tousling his hair. "I just don't think that your daddy would appreciate coming here and finding you all bruised and banged up, especially on my watch."

"Oh, I don't know." Jacob stepped out of the hall into the small bathroom. "I mean a few scraps and scratches are understandable, but I draw the line at a loss of fingers or toes," he joked, playfully.

"Daddy!" Ethan's hands reached up in excitement. "You're here!"

Jacob scooped him up in arm, careful of his knee. "Of course I am. I promised you, didn't I? And Daddy always keeps his promises." He ran a hand through Ethan's curly hair before turning to his pseudo nurse.

"Hey Leah."

"Jake," she greeted, just as short.

The relationship between them was a strange one; even Jacob had to admit that much. He found it funny that to strangers and most of the guys, she pretended to be such a hard ass. For the most part, it was true—he'd never doubt her ability to kick ass when the situation called for it—but he also knew that there was another side to her.

The scene with Ethan was just a glimpse at the woman that she'd become. This Leah had actually turned out to be a really good friend to him in the past months. He'd never tell her this—only because he knew that she wasn't one to get sentimental about things—but he couldn't thank her enough, or her mother, or even Seth for that matter, for helping out with Ethan during those dark times when he couldn't even get out of bed in the morning. He would always be grateful to her for her help.

He looked down at Ethan. "What happened with the knee buddy?"

"Oh, I fell down." He held up his leg as if Jacob could see the scrap through his pants leg. "Me and Danny were fake wrestling and I tripped over a rock."

Jacob nodded, shuffling him in his arms. "But you're okay now right?" The four year old nodded. Jake turned to Leah. "What do you say doc? Does he get a clean bill of health?"

She gave it a thought before bringing her hands up to Ethan's cheeks. "Yeah, I think he's gonna make it."

"Where's your grandpa?" Jacob asked, placing him on his feet.

Ethan pointed toward the back window, "He's outside with Uncle Sam."

"He's helping Sam with some of the grilling," Leah supplied.

"Well, if you're really okay, can I trust you to be just a little bit more careful when playing with Danny?" he asked, and Ethan nodded his head. "I mean, I don't think Aunt Leah could take another fall, do you?" He watched as Ethan looked to Leah whose mouth hung open before she narrowed her eyes dangerously at Jacob. Sheepishly, Ethan shook his head.

Jacob smiled, "Well go have fun," he said, patting Ethan lightly as he made a bee line for the bathroom door. "And Ethan be careful!" he called behind him.

"I will!" Ethan yelled back as he headed down the stairs, one at a time.

Once he was out of earshot, Leah wasted no time in saying, "Wow, you look like shit."

"So I've been told," he sighed, leaning up against the edge of the bathroom sink.

"It went that well huh?"

Jacob shook his head. "It was actually the opposite," he said. "It was…rough at first, but we got a lot of stuff out in the open."

"Okay so why do you look…like that?" she asked, taking in is distressed appearance.

"What the hell is wrong with your brother?"

Leah frowned, "Seth?"

"You only have the one," he snapped as she took a seat on the toilet to face him. "He practically tore my head off earlier because I went to see Bella." Jacob was actually upset that it bothered him so much; the argument with Seth, rather than the actual argument. It was striking a nerve.

Leah wasn't surprised at all. "I think he just doesn't want history to repeat itself, that's all."

Jacob wasn't following.

"Jake, you do realize that you leaving had an effect on a lot of people right? That it wasn't just Sam that felt the bulk of it? We all did," she explained. "Especially Seth."

"You guys got along just fine without me here," Jacob claimed. He wasn't buying it. It wasn't like he was in charge or anything. Besides running with the pack on patrol like all the others, he didn't feel like his role here had been all that important.

"My brother idolized you ever since he was a kid, you know that," Leah shrugged. "I think that when you took off, he felt like he'd lost a big brother or something and now that you're back, he's not too keen on the idea of you getting involved with the person that made you leave in the first place."

Jacob had never really thought about that.

"And I think he's so pissed at Bella because he actually went to her and Edward's wedding. He understood that she'd made her choice and it wasn't you so to have her back here, obviously acknowledging that she'd made a mistake… Seth kinda feels like he lost out on all that time with you for nothing. Like it was all for nothing."

"But that's not true," he argued.

Jacob didn't want Seth to think that way because even though Bella's marriage to Edward was one of the main reasons why he took off, he couldn't regret making the decision when he got a family and new life out of it.

It wasn't all for nothing.

"Seth will be fine," she declared. "He's a big boy now. I think it was just the fact that you left so soon after Dad's death—it just hit him harder than he expected."

Jacob had never even thought about that—about Harrry—and that just made him even more upset with himself. At the time, he knew his reasons for leaving were selfish, but he was no good to anyone back then. Miserable all the time over a girl? He was liable to make mistakes and those mistakes could have had tragic consequences for his pack members if he'd stuck around. Even though he regretted abandoning Seth, he couldn't regret making the decision to cut out.

He would have to talk to Seth sooner or later to clear the air. No matter what happened in the past, he didn't want there to be any animosity between them. If it were anyway else, he wouldn't have cared enough to bother, but with Seth…the current strain just wasn't them.

"You know, being in love looks really good on you Leah," Jacob smiled at the older wolf. The words sort of just spilled out and even though it was quite random, it needed to be said. He wasn't making fun or being sarcastic. He genuinely meant it. There was a light in her eyes that he hadn't seen in a long time. Actually the only time he'd ever seen it was in memories of her and Sam together. She was calm—happy even.

She gave him a light shove in retaliation but the smile on her face was telling. "Don't get all soft on me just yet Jake. I can still kick your ass," she argued.

"Oh trust me; I have no doubt about that." He let out a throaty laugh as he moved to head back downstairs.

"David asked me to marry him," she blurted out and from the look on her face as he turned; Jacob wondered if she considered that a good thing or a bad thing.

"Congratulations?" he offered, hoping for the former. David was a good guy; he could see their relationship heading in that direction. What he didn't see was an engagement ring on her finger. "So what happened? Did you turn the guy down or something?" He took his place back by the sink.

"I didn't tell him no. I just told him that I needed some time to think about it," she explained, looking down.

What's there to think about? Jacob wondered. "You do love him… right?"

Leah sighed as she rose to her feet. There was no room in the small bathroom for pacing, but somehow she managed. "Of course I love him. I never thought that I would love anyone again as much as I love that man," she exclaimed. "But you and I both know that love alone doesn't keep a relationship together."

Jacob would give her that much, but he considered her situation normal. She was in love with a normal guy, a guy who knew her secret and still wanted to be with her. There was no other man or other woman standing in their way, so he still didn't understand why she was hesitating to take the next step.

"I'm just terrified that if we get married…," she paused briefly before he shoulders slumped in defeat. "I'm afraid that things are gonna change between."

"How so?"

It didn't change much for Jacob. In fact he loved being able to claim Lily as his wife. Maybe it was the whole alpha dominance thing, he wasn't entirely sure, but when he said "I do" it felt like he was saying "mine" and he loved the way it made him feel. She belonged to him and only him.

She was his mate. In every possible way.

"I don't know. I just think that if we get married it won't be long before he wants…and I can't…" She ran a frustrating hand through her dark, shoulder-length hair.

Jacob actually didn't need her to finish. It all was starting to make sense now. Leah was worried that if she and David got married then sooner or later he would want kids and Leah (as long as she continued to shift) could not have children.

"He knows about that, doesn't he?"

"Yes," she collapsed back on edge of the toilet. "As painful as it was, I told him everything about the side effects of being a wolf and he was understanding and sweet and as wonderful as always," she literally gushed.

"Okay," Jake shrugged. "No problem then."

"Wrong," Leah rolled her eyes. "How long will he be okay with it? Realistically, how long will it be before he starts wanting kids despite what he says now? He'd be a terrific father. I know that he would be. I just don't want to get married and then have him to wake up next to me five years from now disappointed that he missed out on fatherhood."

Jacob grimaced, scratching his head.

This was not his territory. Fatherhood, yes. Finding loopholes to have babies…not so much. He loved Ethan more than anything, but his conception was very much a surprise event. He didn't really have to put much work into it. As a matter, the "work" he did, couldn't be called that.

He knew a little bit about adoption and maybe surrogacy, but if Leah really wanted to have her own biological child with David then maybe she would have to do what he'd done.

"Have you ever considered…stopping?" Jacob offered.

There was no need to elaborate because he knew she understood him. It sounded as if she gave up shifting than all of her problems would be solved. She could live the life that she wanted instead of being hindered by the side effects of being one of them.

She was quiet for minute before slowly nodding.

"I do think about it sometimes, but the only thing that stops me is the fact that I know what's out there. I mean, after everything that happened with Aimee and the fact that we still weren't able to get to her in time…" She looked up at him, anxious. "And then I think about just being an ordinary human with a kid, powerless to save my child if one of those bloodsuckers got their hands on him or her and being forced to just sit back and wait to hear word like Emily had to do. I don't even know if I want to risk it," she admitted with absolute conviction. "Jacob I could barely keep it together when Aimee went missing. To think about my own baby," he watched as she shuttered at the thought.

Instinctively, Jacob moved closer, pulling her to him.

"You really can't think that way Leah. I mean, I'm what I am and I still worry about Ethan all the time. It doesn't matter, supernatural or not. That's just one of the scariest things about being a parent. You can try so hard to keep them safe, but you can't really protect them from everything.

He was giving her solid advice though it was a bit hypocritical of him. He understood exactly where she was coming from by wanting to have an advantage when protecting the ones that she loved. It was the reason why he'd decided not to stop phasing after Sam helped him get it under control.

"I'm just gonna really think it through," she reasoned with settled sigh. "Marriage is a big deal."

"It is, but I think you'll make the right decision."He gave her a reassuring squeeze for good measure.

It was clear that the discussion was over and he was grateful. He didn't know how much help he'd been, but he was hoping that maybe she could weigh in on something for him. He'd never get a chance to bring it up again so he decided to take a chance.

"Since we're doing the whole "cry on my shoulder thing", could I ask you something?"

She looked up at him, eyes suspicious. "I guess I'm feeling generous…"

Jacob couldn't believe that he was doing this, especially with Leah of all people, but so far she'd been the only one who hadn't given her take on the whole Bella issue. And her not having an opinion on the subject was uncharacteristic since in the past she made it a priority to say what was on her mind even if no one wanted to hear it. The fact that she was being so tightlipped now, not only made him curious, he was a little scared.

"What do you think about this whole Bella situation?"

He already knew where Sam and the rest of the guys stood; even Emily had given her two cents. It'd be nice to hear from someone who obviously wasn't invested either way. He wanted to know where Leah's head was at.

"You really want to know the truth?"

Jacob sneered, "No lie to me please—of course, I want to know the truth." If anyone could give it to him straight it was her.

"Fine," she sighed. "I think that you're kiddin' yourself if you believe that Bella didn't come back here for you. I think a part of you knows that and I think that you're enjoying the fact that the shoe is now on the other foot. That it's her vying for a place in your life and not the other way around," Leah answered honestly. "Although, I can't really blame you for that considering everything that she put you though."

People were always so quick to blame Bella for his heartache. Granted, he didn't really help in that department but it was like they didn't take into account that he played a part in it as well. He thought he could make her see, make her understand that she was in love with him too and even though he did, it wasn't enough. At the time, he didn't understand but he was a big boy now. A wrong, no matter how much you dressed it up, was still just that.

A few moments of silence lingered between them before Leah spoke. Her voice, much to Jacob surprise, was gentle as she urged him to look at her.

He did.

"I know that with everything you've been through these past few months that it would be easy to fall into something that's familiar," she stressed, face torn. "And as much as I want to hate Bella's guts, I know what she meant to you. It's not something that I think you can fight even though I know that you want to. Just be careful. Speaking for someone who's taken the route of self fulfillment rather than being practical in a situation that's completely out of your control, I can understand doing certain things that others wouldn't readily excuse or forgive you for."

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you actually cared about what happens to me."

She scoffed, "It's purely selfish. The longer you stay, the more time we all get spend with a member of the Black family that we actually like," she quipped, referring to Ethan.

He could live with that reasoning, but they both knew the truth.

"Oh and Jacob, just so we're clear—" She held up her finger in a warning manner, but Jacob was already a step ahead. "We never had this conversation," he finished.

He grinned as she nodded her head in approval.

Sure, it only took eight years and a mutual understanding of heartbreak for them to get this far, but for the first time, Jacob felt like he finally understood and spoke "Leah".

.