Story Notes: Following the "Edward left Bella, leaving an opening for Bella to fall in love with Jacob" AU of the Twilight Saga...

Bella chooses Jacob, Edward shows up after graduation (finally) and saves Bella's life when Victoria and a smaller band of newborns comes to do away with our fair damsel. Edward admits to Bella AND Jacob that he will go insane if he can't even see her and Bella agrees that the occasional visit is allowable. Even Jacob says so; he owes Edward a debt for Bella's life. Not that any of THAT is in THIS story.

All characters and situations are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter One: Coming and Going

It was not my favorite way to begin a visit with Bella.

For a year, she (and Jacob Black, I admit) had been gracious enough to allow me to spend some time with her every few months. The freedom to keep in touch with her had eased my eternally-invested heart, for I knew I would love Bella Swan even when she became Bella Black and to the very end of her life.

Bella knew it, too, I think, though she was too gracious to ever say anything. She merely let me know I was always welcome, when I called. I tried not to call too often and stress that welcome more than necessary.

We had arranged to meet behind her house, where she lived with her father, as we had before. When I arrived, as twilight touched the treetops and a rain-scented breeze drifted lazily through the woods, I was unsurprised to see Jacob perched on a log just beyond the official boundaries of the yard.

I was about to greet him when I was met with a careful series of mental images. A diamond solitaire surrounded by leaves crafted in Black Hills gold. A smallish house, still under renovation, probably somewhere on the Quileute Reservation. Candles. Music. An enormous bed that had been built as an integral part of a bedroom rather than a piece of furniture.

And, finally, an image of my Bella I had certainly imagined in unguarded moments but never fully expected to see: Her lustrous mahogany hair scattered on pillows below me – below the eyes in which this vision was given to me, so the perspective was Jacob's – her eyes shivering open in passion, and the awareness of her bare skin, agile limbs wrapped around my body...

I felt as if were a human who had been kicked in the gut and knocked breathless. "I didn't need to see that," I ground out as Jacob rose to his impressive full height.

Jacob was utterly unrepentant. "I just wanted you to know. It's official."

I had to ask, though I inwardly cringed in anticipation of the answer. "You're married? Aren't you a little young, Jacob?"

His countenance fell a bit. "Not yet, no. Next year. I just wanted you to know how things stood, with us."

It amounted, I understood, to a male boundary marker in nature. A clear sign to others in the area that a designated piece of geography had been claimed. I thought it was crude, but admitted it was effective. "I think I would have understood just by seeing the ring, Jacob," I managed to say without inflection. "No need to have been quite so graphic."

"Still jealous?" Why couldn't the dog just take his victory without taunting me?

"Of course. But I'm also grateful to you for allowing me to spend time with her, anyway."

He nodded, his eyes dropping to the leaf-covered ground. "And I'm grateful to you for saving her life and killing that leech Victoria after Bella graduated, so I guess we're even."

Not quite. He had won and he knew it. "Remember," I murmured, my voice pitched to carry only as far as his wolf-sensitive ear, "that gratitude will not save you if you ever hurt her. Ever. I'll be waiting."

His dark eyes sharpened, his stance stiffened, but he controlled himself admirably. "I'd never hurt her. At least," he modified, images flashing in his head that I had not seen, before, "not on purpose. Not like that." Before his eyes now was a younger Bella, yelling at him about something, and I ascertained that they had had at least one fight, during my insane time away from her. Well, that was something. "So don't be waiting in the wings, bloodsucker," he muttered. "You'll just get bored." He looked up as we both heard the light, somewhat faltering steps of the woman we both loved. "Here she is. I'll just take off, now. I didn't tell her I'd be, ah, here."

Of course not. She would have asked why and there was no way Jacob would want Bella to know he intended on sharing those particular memories with me. I nodded as he sped away.

"Edward!"

"Bella, good evening," I said, coming to meet her half way. I tried to shake the candle-scented images from my mind, so I wouldn't hear the catch in her voice as she whispered Jacob's name in a surfeit of passion. Jacob's memories had always been especially vivid when he shared them with me. I could only imagine how the wolf pack endured them.

The diamond glinted from her left hand and I smiled a little. "So, it's official?"

Her blush warmed me. I had missed that. "Yes..." Chocolate eyes met my own. "I, um, brought the pictures Esme asked for..."

Considerate of her to gloss over the fact of her engagement and move forward, though I did rather wish to discuss that further, I would not make her uncomfortable. "Thank you. Would you like to sit down?" I asked, waving at the log recently vacated by her fiancé. Bella with her blissfully human senses couldn't catch Jacob's scent and so was not made uncomfortable.

Her own personal fragrance slammed into me, though, as it always did when I had been away from it. I had hunted, of course, but nothing could stop the flaming effect her blood had upon me. I overrode it, but it was still there.

She smiled, her gaze careful, but warm. "So, how is everyone?"

We visited. It was never enough, but it was more than I deserved. If I could have just managed to forget the images Jacob had thrown at me, the hour would have been almost entirely perfect.

I saw her again two more times before the wedding invitation arrived. Alice, of course, was all for attending, as the invitation had been extended to our entire family. Had Bella chosen the ceremony to be after dark on our account? It would be like her.

It was a short ceremony. Bella, on Charlie's arm, looked radiantly happy. I was able to dance with her, just once. It was not enough, but also more than I really ever hoped for, to dance with her again.

She filled my arms, her distance careful but relaxed. "I'm so glad you could come, Edward. You and Alice and everyone."

I smiled down into her shining eyes. Her marriage had cost me no little pain. She would know that. But I was still grateful to have been included in the event. "We wouldn't have missed it." I whispered, "And you look every bit as lovely as I imagined you would."

She blushed and looked away. "Thank you."

Carlisle, Emmett and Jasper danced with her, too, under the casually watchful eyes of Jacob's brethren. They bristled at the notion of allowing vampires to the Reservation, but Jacob was Ephraim's grandson and his word sanctioned my family for the occasion. But only, we understood, for this occasion.

When it was over and Jacob took my Bella – his Bella, now – away to wherever private place he planned for their honeymoon, my family and I melted away. I needed, desperately, to find something to do to distract myself.

Esme was saddened, but they all understood when I took off to Europe for almost a full year. Alice kept tabs on me and, once, they all joined me for a few weeks in Switzerland.

I only called Bella twice, that year. Only twice. I wanted to give the newlyweds time. I wanted to know if I could be strong enough, now that she was in fact married, to stay away from her. I wanted... Well, I wanted more than was actually possible, as it turned out.

Still, I managed to live on memories and those brief phone calls. Bella was shy but proud as she shared some of the lighter moments of life on the reservation as the wife of a werewolf. No regret did I ever hear to edge her tones. She sounded, at least, truly happy.

I was happy for her.

Still, I was compelled to visit, much as we had done before. Not in the new house – it stank of werewolf to me, and Bella knew that was unpleasant for too long a time – but we did meet at her father's house, in the back yard, as had become our custom.

They had just celebrated their second anniversary at my last visit. Marriage suited Bella, for all she had privately railed against it. At the age of twenty-two, Bella Black was even more beautiful in my eyes than she had been at seventeen.

Seventeen. Had it been so long? The years had flown, leaving me untouched. Bella, though, was enhanced in her growing maturity. Less clumsy now than before, she worked for a local lab, doing medical tests and reports and helping with research. Carlisle would be proud of her. I was.

Darkness moved across the sky. Her cell phone beeped. "Text from Jake," she said, excusing herself to read it. "He invites you to dinner," she told me, a rather surprised smile curving her lips. "I think he just wanted to remind me he's cooked it already."

I rose off the log and held out my hand to her. She took it, with all the comfort that she had always shown. My cold, stony fingers had never bothered her. "I think I'll pass, if that's all right, Bella."

"You'll call again, right?"

I couldn't stay away. "I will." I walked her to her car and watched as she drove away. My memories were already playing themselves for me. Letting me relive my time with her, sparse as it had been, as she went to join her husband.

I stayed with my family in Ithaca for only a day before I had to leave. Had to. The need for solitude overwhelmed me.

"Alice?"

My sister reached to cup my face in her tiny hands. "I know, Edward. You always have to go into seclusion after you see her. We all know." Her smile was loving and tolerant. "Between you and me, and you know I love you, it's easier on all of us if you take off for a week or so. Just hurry back, 'kay? We love you."

My smile was rueful. "Sorry."

She shook her head, held up a finger and closed her eyes. "You'll be back. Say hello to Zafrina for us."

"So that's where I'm going? The Amazon?" I laughed; I hadn't any idea.

"Yes," Alice said decidedly. "Be safe down there, and watch out for the humans!"

I visited with Zafrina and her Amazonian vampire coven. The heat and humidity were uncomfortable, but there was always much to learn. And, of course, the menu was certainly varied from Upstate New York. Enough to see and do to keep me occupied while that part of myself that would always be Bella's stayed with her in my mind.

The best way to spend a month? No. Distracting? Yes. And, when the visions Jacob had passed to me were too vivid, too haunting, I was tempted, yes... But even when one of the lovely and unattached females in this coven invited me to share even a night with them... I couldn't find it in myself to comply. My body might have appreciated the release, but I knew I would have a hard time looking Bella in the face when next I saw her.

"I'm just –" I said, trying to explain it – in Portuguese – to Senna.

"You're in love. We all know that. But she is far from you, now."

"Still..."

Senna's dark eyes smiled in understanding. "I remember that feeling. You are still welcome, should you wish."

It was time to go.

I flew back to New York, half in anticipation, half in dread. I could not explain the former to myself, but the latter was familiar enough. Carlisle met me at the airport. Alone.

"Edward," he said, his expression sober. "Welcome home."

"Carlisle, good to see you. How is everyone?"

We walked at a fast human pace through the teeming mass of people. I took a look into Carlisle's mind, for that was our customary means of communication. Prepared to see the latest family moments, I was not expecting what he told me.

We received a letter from the Blacks, addressed to you. As our friends in the Amazon do not have a mailing address, I was unable to forward it to you. Carlisle's mind expressed trepidation and a welling of concern and care for me. And you didn't bring your cell, so I couldn't even call to ask if we could open it for you. Next time you do this, please take the phone, okay? We've all been going crazy.

"I'm positive Bella would have nothing to say that would cause you such distress," I assured him. We were approaching the parking levels and I was almost in a fevered state to get home to the letter. What was it about?

The letter was postmarked the day you left for the south, Carlisle further elucidated. The envelope did not carry her scent, nor was it in her handwriting.

I stopped breathing. Froze motionless for a timeless instant on our way to the elevator that would get us to where Carlisle had already shown me the Mercedes was waiting. "All right. Did you find out what it said?"

Alice was all in favor of reading it, but she said you had told her to stop checking up on Bella, and she never saw anything, anyway, since Bella's life was intertwined with Jacob Black's.

We paced to the sleek Mercedes, Carlisle's favorite automobile. I rounded on him. "Carlisle." I felt my eyes burning with the need to know what he knew.

And then, he slipped his hand into his jacket pocket and handed me the envelope. In the same smooth movement, he took my luggage and moved to put it in the trunk so I could read the letter with a minimal degree of privacy.

The handwriting was not my Bella's. The letter was dated from the day after my last visit to her.

Edward,

I don't even know where to start. First. Bella's not dead. I don't want you going all suicidal on me. Or on her. She'll need you.

No, she's not sick. She's fine. I mean, physically.

This is the thing. Damn, I can't even write it right.

I Imprinted. Not on Bella, either.

Just yesterday. The same night that you came out, remember? I was working at the garage and was going to go make dinner when Kendra drove up with a flat tire. She needed help. I saw her face and that was it.

I texted Bella because I couldn't make myself talk to her. Invited you to come with her back to the house for dinner. Hoped that you could help her. But you didn't come. I understand. I really do. How could you know, right?

But I had to tell her, Edward. I had to.

She left today.

We hammered out a story – you guys know all about that, right? – and she went to Charlie's. I guess that's where she is now.

Don't come out here and take my head off. I may not love her the same anymore, but I've really hurt my best friend - she'll always be that to me, no matter what, and I love her like that.

Please, if you can, get to Bella.

She'll need you.

Jacob

I heard a ripping, grinding snarl in the car as Carlisle got behind the wheel. He didn't start the engine and I realized that the snarl was mine. Fury engulfed every part of me.

Edward! The shout was in my mind, but Carlisle's voice was subdued. "What is it, son?" Your hands are trembling and you're going to rip that paper in two if you don't control yourself.

I bit out her name. "Bella."

No! Is she...

He couldn't even bring himself to think the word but I saw his meaning, and I shook my head, still not trusting myself for more than one word at a time. "No."

Breathe, son. Breathe. What happened?

I breathed, following the doctor's orders, and calmed myself, still gripping the letter, though it was thoroughly crumpled by that time. "Bella's husband. Imprinted. On someone else."

The wordless shock and dismay from Carlisle's mind was almost tangible. Typically, his compassion for Jacob and Bella surfaced first. That has to be the worst experience for them. What happened?

"She's left, apparently. Here, you can read it. Can I have your phone? I need to call Alice. Find out if she can find Bella."

Of course. The phone and letter changed places.

Alice's high voice was melodious and curious, all in one. "Edward! Welcome home! Did Carlisle bring the letter? We've all been –"

"Thank you. Yes," I said, rudely interrupting her. I didn't care for manners, just then. My whole body was wound like a coil but without a focus for release. Even my jaw felt tight. "I need you to find Bella for me."

Alice paused. "I haven't been peeking, Edward, honest."

"I need you to, now."

"But she's –"

I blew out a harsh breath. "Would you please just do it for me, Alice? I'll explain when I know."

Carlisle looked at me reprovingly. I rolled my eyes. "She'll forgive me," I told him.

"Maybe," Alice chirped in my ear. Then, "She's in some kind of medical lab, I think."

"Medical? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. She's wearing a white coat."

Still raging in my own mind, I shook my head. "Oh. Right. She works in a lab. That's okay. How does she look?"

"Terrible. Like she hasn't slept in a month."

That was my fault. I silently cursed myself in five different languages before I trusted my voice again to ask another question. "What about tonight? Where will she be? Will she be all right for one more night?"

"Hmmm... Ah. I see an apartment. Small. Dark. She's taking off the white coat."

"Where is she?"

"I can't tell, but, oh wait. I see her mail in her hand. Ah. Olympia. She's in Olympia."

Washington. Still. All right. "And will she be all right tonight?"

"Yes, I think so..." Then, Alice made a surprised sort of trill.

"What?" I demanded.

"You! You just showed up in her apartment. Tonight."

Relief. Release. The spring that my body had become unwound in that moment and I inhaled deeply, relaxing into the leather seat of the car. "Thank you. I guess, then, that I'll have to collect that welcome home later, Alice. Looks like I'm flying out again."

"Hmph! And we had a big party all planned, too."

"Sorry, Alice. For everything. And thank you." My mind was already racing, trying to put together a plan. "I'll talk to you soon."

"Your cell is in the glove box."

The non sequitur did not surprise me. "You're brilliant and gifted."

"I know! Bye! Give Bella our love, Edward. Really."

I smiled and closed my eyes. "I will, really. Thanks."

Carlisle had smoothed the letter against the leather-wrapped steering wheel. "I am so sorry, Edward. If I had taken the chance to open it, you could have been with her, already." I cannot imagine what this has done to her. Or to him.

Against my will, I did see his point of view. Jacob had loved Bella, with true commitment and passion. Bella had been so happy... So had he. No, I didn't want to feel any sympathy for him whatsoever, but Carlisle compelled me to at least back off on wanting to kill the mongrel. "Don't take it on yourself, please, Carlisle," I said at last, plans running behind my eyes as I spoke. "If I hadn't felt it necessary to hide for a month –"

No, Edward. It's not your fault. How could you know?

"I don't know. I just feel sick for her. And, yes, even for him. No, I'm not going to rip his head off. I might settle for an arm," I said, opening my eyes and smiling a little.

His smile answered mine. Much better. Of course, it'd be hard for a wolf to run with three legs.

"Not my problem."

So I guess we need to get your suitcase from the trunk again. You're off? Do you need anything before you go?

"Forgiveness. I am sorry, Carlisle, for my manner. I hope I didn't distress you."

Not more than I could handle, he informed me, popping the trunk. If Alice hasn't done so, I'll fill everyone in at home. Get your phone. Good. Call me when you can.

"I will. And thank you."

Also in the glove box was an envelope with a good amount of cash. Alice, as was her tendency, had planned for every contingency.