Story Notes: Set six years after Breaking Dawn, it's the story of one way a "child imprinting" becomes an "adult imprinting." And how Jacob Black finally gets his happily ever after.
Some events added specifically for my fifteen-year-old son, who is also a Twilight fan.
This is a work of derivative fiction. All things TWILIGHT are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer and/or her assignees. I write merely to entertain myself and others and receive no compensation.
Chapter Notes: In the tradition of Stephenie Meyer, I'm starting off with a tiny peek at a future tense moment before the story starts...
"What is it?" I hissed at my dad. "Is Jacob out there?"
"No," he shot back, not looking at me. "I heard Joham, though. He's...looking. Looking for – No!"
The challenge sounded immediately thereafter. "Well! I'm prepared to trade!" Joham's voice I heard, but I didn't see him.
A snarl ripped from both of my parents as they formed a stone wall in front of me – but I was too fast for them. No, I didn't see Joham, but I did see Nahuel. And he was holding a human in his arms.
A limp little girl. Named Claire.
I ran at speeds faster than human, around the perimeter of confused, frightened people. "Nahuel! Let her go! You can't do this to her!" I reached the cars, trying to find a good landing place for a jump.
He was standing on top of a blue pick-up, legs firmly spread. "Will you take her place, Renesmee? It is all the trade I want."
Yeah. Life is weird. So?
My life was weird, by any normal standard. From the day the hereditary gene was triggered in me, things were strange. I went from being a teenaged boy, crushing hugely on a heart-sore girl, to being a shapeshifter with secrets and a body that matured to full adulthood in a matter of weeks.
And, after that same girl broke my heart I don't know how many times and got herself married and pregnant, I found myself crazily and undeniably devoted to – her daughter. Imprinting. It was something so out of the concept of reality, humans – regular humans – didn't even make up stories to explain it.
Yeah, it was weird. But, it was also the only way for me to live and after just a few months, it also seemed pretty – pretty normal. You know. For me.
My dad, Billy, didn't think so, though. "What the hell? Imprinting, Jacob? On a Cullen?" His face had gone red, then white as he gripped the wheels on his chair with white-knuckled fists. "Damn good thing I can't get to you, boy. Good thing you're so tall, too. She's a –"
I couldn't read minds like Edward, Nessie's father, but I knew enough to throw my hand up to stop Billy's flow of words. "Don't start, Dad. Just don't. Nessie's the most amazing little girl in the world, and I'm not gonna listen to you." She was, too, and I wasn't biased. Much. Everyone who met my Nessie was bowled over by her.
But for me, there wasn't much of a choice in the matter. It happened when she was only minutes old. When my heart had been broken into a thousand ragged shards and when murder burned in my blood. All I had had to do was look into those eyes... Eyes just like Bella's... before... And I was hooked.
Imprinted. Renesmee Carlie Cullen became my entire reason for drawing air into my lungs. For opening my eyes in the morning. Whatever was right for her, was right for me. Making her happy became my goal of the moment.
We were best friends, even when she was just a toddler. Of course she was a toddler when she was a month old. Awesome girl, my Nessie.
Billy didn't want to hear about it, though. My pack – me and Leah and Seth as well as a couple of the younger ones – got over it faster. Something about that whole communal brain thing made even thinking otherwise, well, unthinkable. They all knew the lack of choice I had. They had seen it with my eyes and their own. Wolf and human.
Billy didn't want to hear about it, but he's grown used to it. His one daughter married to surfer. His other the imprintee of another shapeshifter. Losing Sue Clearwater to Charlie Swan, of all the men in the state of Washington... And me, well. With Rachel and Paul with my dad, I knew he was being cared for, anyway. Me, I'm not at the Rez anymore. Not for years. Yeah, I guess it does look weird, on the surface. Big guy like me playing babysitter and best friend to a little girl... But what's a guy to do? At least she wasn't so little anymore.
What was really weird was Bella. She freaked out at first. But I guess that was no more strange than for her to have loved both a vampire and a shapeshifter. At the same time. Tore me up, I can say that. Nessie, though... She made it all make sense.
And today was her sixth birthday.
"Jacob? Where's my Jacob?" I was twenty-three years old and still couldn't help the jolt of happiness in my spirit when I heard that voice call me that. Being only – well, sort of – human, though, the echo of that phrase, "my Jacob," would always breeze through my mind in Bella's old voice. Her human voice. From that one, stranger-than-strange night I spent with her and Edward.
Memories. Memories fade as if they were balloons floating into a vast, clear sky. But the impressions of that night were like those shiny, metallic balloons. I could see them for a long, long time as they drifted away from me. Memories of Bella, curved next to me, shivering and then warming. Memories of taunting Edward. He really wasn't such a bad guy. For a vampire. And the memory of Bella sleeping and murmuring, "my Jacob..."
But Renesmee Cullen's voice said it better. And I never had to wince when I thought of how she sounded, either.
"Nessie! Happy Birthday!" Dawn was climbing into the sky, here over New Hampshire. The Cullen family had moved after Bella's first year as a vampire. The reason, of course, was that Edward and Bella had gone to Dartmouth. He majored in Music (this time, as he used to say) and she in Native American Studies — which I thought was pretty cool. Both had been accepted there, but had managed to persuade the college to postpone their admission for a year after their marriage.
Made sense to me. I watched those two and they wouldn't have got much studying done at all that first year!
Weird, how that stopped mattering to me. The whole jealousy thing blew away the first time I looked into Nessie's chocolate eyes.
Those same eyes that were shining for me, now. Under a crazy mop of bronze curls and over a full-lipped smile that was almost too perfect to be for real. I held out my arms to her and she leapt into them, as she had since her first months of life. We had a system. She was maybe five and a half feet tall and almost an adult, according to everything we had all heard and figured out over the years. We still had a system.
We had been friends her whole life. I crossed the country for her – didn't have a choice, really – and had been ready to run with her to keep her alive, more than once, over the years.
Spinning her around, I watched her laugh and lean back to feel the wind in her hair. "Dizzy yet?"
"Yes!" she gasped. "Put me down!"
Gently, always, I did so. Then she stretched up to touch my cheek with her hand, watching my eyes as she showed me all about her night and the packing being done and how much her parents had managed to do while she was sleeping. It was faster, getting it in images like that and I had long grown used to her unique method of a morning report.
"And Dad recorded a new album for my birthday with all my favorites that he wrote this last year, and Mom gave me something, too..."
"What?" I wondered, lowering myself to the enormous boulder that had become my personal chair in the Cullen's yard, on the edge, here, near the maple trees, whose leaves were changing into mind-blowing oranges and reds.
Nessie hopped up next to me and took my hand in hers, absently, as she rested her head on her knees. "Girl stuff," she said, her own color washing into her creamy skin.
We sat and watched the sun climb a little higher into the sky. Silently. Most comfortable girl in the world, my Nessie. "So they're packing?" I asked.
"Yep. You all set?"
"Not really." As many years as I had been an unofficial part of the Cullens' extended family, I was feeling weird about this move. Brazil had never been a place I'd wanted to go. Oh, I'd studied, too. At the local community college. Worked nearby. Like the Cullens, I had a story to keep up. I didn't age, either. I was actually twenty-three, but I'd been looking about twenty-five – Bella made that age up for that first set of phony IDs, years ago, and it stuck – for the last six years. We wolves – shapeshifters – didn't age once we got settled into our wolf skins, I guess. I wouldn't start aging again until I quit phasing for a length of time, either. And, with a new move to a strange place...
I'd better keep my skins. Both of 'em.
"Want me to come help?"
"Sure, sure. Let's tell your folks." Why not? Nessie was no slouch and she'd probably have fun making sense of what stuff I had in my place. Not a whole lot of stuff, but I'd managed to earn a college degree myself – Associates Degree in Computer Drafting – and I had collected some books and stuff, too, in my little house on what I call The Cullen Complex.
Renesmee slid off the granite boulder and pulled me after her, acting for all the world like she was a six-year-old in body as well as in calendar pages. She looked like a sixteen-year-old, though, and was occasionally a bigger brat than Rosalie, but... She was still my Nessie.
Weird, how you can get used to someone being the gravity in your universe, you know? I never thought I'd get used to it. I used to roll my eyes at Quil when he would be babysitting Claire back in La Push. Of course, Claire was a normal human girl. She was about eight or nine, now. Quil was like a favorite big brother, to her. He didn't see any other faces, he told me, once. Not that he had a thing for Claire, but that other girls just didn't even enter his mind. Not in any way that, like, mattered. As Renesmee dragged me to the quiet, conservative navy blue door of her house, I could imagine Claire dragging Quil around, too. We did email each other, keeping tabs on each other. Him with his pack and me with ... With mine. Small as it was. I was sending them home, though. Leah and Seth. That was why I hadn't packed, I guess.
It was going to be tough to leave.
I was still dwelling on it when the door opened and Bella appeared. "Hey, Bells!"
Seeing her, unchanged in these years, was weird too. Especially when I contrasted her unchanging face and body to the rapid changes in her daughter. Her voice sounded like a bell, melodious, but low and rich. "Hey, Jake!" She ruffled her daughter's hair with a loving smile in her dark eyes. I guessed she and Edward would be hunting, soon. "You're up early."
"Was up most of the night. My turn."
She nodded, her lips thinning a little. "Ah, of course. How's the packing?" The morning sun hit her skin just then, and she turned into a walking rainbow, just like the rest of them. It was something I had grown accustomed to, but it still bothered me on occasion. She was happy – no one could doubt that – and a confident, powerful woman in her own way. Bella Cullen was a knock-out.
Nessie rolled up on her toes, graceful as a dancer. Of course, she danced. She danced and sang and could work calculus in her sleep. I had watched her, once. She dreamed of the dry erase board and doing calculus... It was so typical of her. "He needs help, Mom. Thought I'd go over. He said," she went on, turning to roll her eyes at me, "that I had to ask, first."
Bella nodded. "All right, but make sure to let Jacob sleep when he gets tired, okay?" To me, she cocked her head a little. "Who else is there?"
"Seth is running. Leah's at school. It'll be cool."
Her nostrils flared just a little. "Fine." I wondered what was bothering her. That little worry-line was on her brow, again, making a shadow on her too-pale skin. "Ness," she said, sounding distracted, "go tell your dad. And change your clothes. Your Aunt Alice will have a fit if you –"
"I know! It's silk," Nessie said, making her voice sound high, horrified and birdlike, like Alice's. Alice Hale, now. The Cullen Complex was filled with couples in their own houses, a big house where everyone mostly gathered in the afternoons and evenings, and... And a small, more private place where the non-Cullens lived, too. Those of us bound by treaty and heart and – in my case – a steel-cabled imprint to the family of Carlisle Cullen.
The public version of the story was like this:
Carlisle and Esme Cullen, childless, had adopted Emmett, Edward and Alice. The children had been Esme's cousins and at the death of the children's parents, Carlisle and Esme had volunteered to raise the youngsters as their own. Adopting them in name and everything. They had then taken on as foster children the Hale twins, Jasper and Rosalie. They had gone to school in Alaska and Washington. Emmett and Rosalie had married right out of high school and were now working in the area, when they weren't traveling the world. They did like to travel.
Alice had married Jasper Hale. They had a fashionable house – with enormous closets – on the east side of the property.
Edward had met and married Isabella Swan in Washington. Right after their wedding, they heard from a lawyer about an older brother who had been adopted into another family and previously lost. The brother had died and left his daughter, Renesmee, to the care of his long-lost brother and his new wife.
I was with the family because I was old friends with Bella, with an affinity for her daughter. I had worked for the Cullens as a mechanic – infuriating Rosalie, who loved tinkering with the incredible cars the Cullens kept for toys – and chauffeur, while I went to college and helped out with my god-daughter, Renesmee. Leah was my cousin, and she and her brother were here for the change of scene...
A little light on details, maybe, but I found out that if you told a story and told it well and stuck to it, then folks just tended to believe you. It was easier.
In reality, Renesmee was the biological daughter of Edward and Bella Cullen, conceived on their wedding night, as far as I've been able to figure, a little more than six years ago. And Carlisle Cullen, the patriarch of the family, was not a true father to any of them. He had, though, "made" Edward and Esme, then Rosalie and Emmett. Alice and Jasper wandered in in the late nineteen thirties, early forties, and became additions to this strange, non-human-blood-drinking vampire coven. Family, really. I'd seen covens of vampires, and the Cullens were not like them.
Even the memories made my skin shiver in anticipation of a phasing. I automatically banked the fires and met Bella's eyes. "Okay, Bells. What is it?"
She couldn't blush anymore, but I knew she would be if she could. Isabella Marie Swan had been my best friend, back when the world had still been "normal" for me. Before I knew about werewolves and vampires and devastating heartbreak and imprinting... Yeah, back in the Old Days.
She sighed. "Never could hide much from you, could I?"
"Not even with your shielded brain, nope," I said, laughing a little as I looked down at the top of her head. The sunlight brought out the subtle red highlights and I thought it was a shame that not more people got to see those hidden shades. Bella couldn't spend time in the sunlight off the Complex anymore. Not really. "So what is it?"
"My baby is growing up?" she ventured, a helpless lilt in her voice. I remembered that Nessie had said something about "girl stuff," and wondered what on earth Bella had given the girl for her birthday. Bella sighed a little. "We got our new papers yesterday, you know."
I did know. I nodded. "Am I still Jacob Wolfe?" I asked wryly.
"The only one of us who didn't need a new passport, yep."
"So what is it, Bells?" I reached out a hand to her and she took it in both of her own. "Is she campaigning for new breakfast cereal or something?" Nessie had started eating more human food in recent months and hunting less. It seemed to be working for her and I know I usually felt more comfortable that way.
Bella smiled a little. "No, Jake. I guess I'm just the mother of a teenage girl, right? Even if she's only six. And even if I'm only eighteen myself. You know, technically."
I chuckled and tousled her hair with my free hand. "Pretty creepy, Mrs. Cullen."
The door burst open then, and Renesmee came flying out to me. Now, she was wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with her favorite musical group on it. "I'm ready! Let's go!"
"Nessie, you go on," Edward said, coming up behind her and catching my eyes immediately. "Jake will be there in a minute."
"Oooookay," she said, setting off at a jog on the long-established path between their house and mine.
What is it? I asked Edward Cullen, who gathered Bella next to him as naturally as breathing. Which they both still did, I guessed. Breathed. I gave him my version of the morning with his daughter – short as it had been – through my thoughts, out of habit. He and Bella had both required a lot of reassurances that first year. They had the natural notion that Imprinting meant Romance... Like, automatically. Totally not true. Only on more grown-up couples did that enter into the relationship. For guys like me and Quil Ateara, Imprinting really just brought this one girl into the center of our worlds. Babysitter, big brother, best friend, whatever. Edward knew the depth of my total devotion to his daughter. I'd run with her, run for her, give everything including my life for her. But he knew, because I know he peeked inside my head constantly, that I didn't feel romantic toward Renesmee at all. I adored her and always would, but that was as far as it went for me.
And, even though I might have missed the thrill of falling in love again, I couldn't imagine any other girl in Nessie's place in my life. Like Quil said, hers was the only face I saw.
Edward's brow lifted with wry amusement as a corner of his mouth kicked up. I recognized that expression. Strange, how I got used to these vampires. Nessie was half-vampire, and I had found I couldn't even call them "bloodsuckers" anymore. Nessie was a bloodsucker too... And I couldn't use that word on my girl. Unless I was teasing her.
"I wasn't going to say anything, but I decided it wouldn't be fair if I didn't, Jacob. You know we're assuming that Nessie will be fully mature by her next birthday."
A brief flurry of terror gripped my gut. Is she all right? Is something wrong? My heart jumped and ran in the worry of it.
"No, nothing like that. She's just... Almost an adult. She's only – half – human."
Confused, I looked to Bella to make it clearer. "What?"
"I didn't want to say anything. And you, Jacob Black, better not tell her you have any idea at all, you hear me? Bad enough her dad knows." She shot Edward a grimace. "Thing is, Jake, she's got a crush on a guy."
Edward smiled a little. "Can you blame her?"
Concerned for my Nessie, I frowned. "Who?" I ran through a list of possibles in my head. My eyes widened. Seth? I asked Edward silently, not wanting to distress Bella at all if I could help it. Seth was a good guy, lots of fun, and he and Renesmee got along just fine.
Edward shook his head. I flashed a few other faces at him – convenient, really – while Bella watched both of us, concern knotting between her eyes. And Edward kept shaking his head.
"I'm stumped," I said, admitting defeat. "So what do you want me to do to this guy?" I asked the most protective father in New Hampshire. "Sniff out his house? Make sure he's okay? Slash his tires?" I chuckled.
Then, Edward kissed Bella's head and looked at me. "Just be gentle with her, Jacob. And try not to make her uncomfortable."
That went without saying. "Of course, but what do you want me to do about this guy? I mean, we're leaving anyway, right? So is that why it's a problem?" If Nessie had a crush on some guy, I completely understood. Didn't bother me except to think of how she might be hurt when we left him. I couldn't bear to see her in pain, even though I knew that some kinds of pain were necessary.
"She's developed this thing for a tall, dark and handsome guy who obviously thinks the sun rises and sets on her head, that's all. Can you blame her?"
I blinked. "Huh?"
"You dense wolf," Bella said, sounding both irritated and amused. "It's you."
They both studied my face, waiting.
"Me?" Edward? Please tell me Bells is messing with me. Please. I don't need this. It's not supposed to be like this with us, Ness and me.
Then, Edward Cullen did a very rare thing. He closed the distance between us and reached up – he had to reach up, because I was six feet, eight inches tall and he was only about six feet himself – to put one hand on each of my shoulders. His hands were icy, but I ignored that. "She's completely serious, Jake. And I know how it is for you, so I'm just asking you to be gentle with her and don't let her know you know, if you can help it. We none of us want her to feel any more awkward. It's not her fault that I can read her mind."
"You know how I feel for her," I said. It was not a question. No one knew that better than Edward. So of course I felt really guilty about making her feel that way.
He shook his head, hearing my thoughts and answering them, not my words. "Don't feel guilty," he murmured, still gripping my shoulders. "Just be gentle."
I closed my eyes. "Yeah. But then, you knew I would be, didn't you?"
"Of course," Bella said, stepping up and putting her stone-cold arm around me. "Because you're a good guy, Jake."
I sighed and moved away from them. "Sure, sure. I guess I better go. I've got this teenaged girl trying to pack my gear so we can move to Brazil, remember?"
Edward and Bella both grinned up at me. "We know."
Great. What do you do when the girl you've Imprinted gets a crush on you? Can't avoid her. Can't say things to make her not like you, even if it makes you uncomfortable. All you can do is try to ignore it.
"Hey! I think I've got a monster in my house!" I bellowed when I opened my door on the other side of the copse of trees.
Her voice came from the floor behind my sofa, where she was boxing books. "Ha, ha, Jacob! Nessie is extinct, but you're stuck with me!" Her impish grin as she peeked over the leather upholstery was the same as it ever was.
That was a relief. I was stuck with her. For the rest of my life. "Yeah, well be careful with my books or I'll find some convenient lake to dump you in."
She chucked a copy of The Deerslayer at me. Brat. I caught it in one hand and laughed. "Promises, promises," she chanted.
A crush on me? Didn't seem like it. She was still acting like a favored cousin or something. Maybe Edward Cullen was wrong?
I tossed the book back to her. "Good catch," I said, as she snagged it in midair without even looking.
Her eyes, very briefly, gleamed like melted chocolate and I disciplined myself not to groan. Nope, he wasn't wrong.
This was just too weird. Be gentle, Edward told me.
Like I had a choice?