A/N: Incredibly Angsty. Inspired by a prompt given over at Sortofbeautiful.
It's not like your life isn't perfect. You know that. You have everything you have ever wanted, beauty and immortality to boot.
When everything's blown over, when the shine has worn off your new house and family and little girl (and you thought it never would), things are good. Life is no longer like the board game, but instead this circle that you just keep walking. By day, you talk and play and hunt, Edward and Nessie in tow; by night you love – slow, fast, passionate, intense. You smile and you laugh and you (almost) cry, and it's good.
The best part about it is that you got to keep it all. You thought that losing humanity meant giving up the perks that went along with it…Charlie, Renee, Jacob. You've yet to visit Mike or Jess or even Angela, and though the latter girl you do miss, you know that drifting apart isn't such an unusual thing, after all.
The Jacob thing, well, you thought it would just be a bonus. He's the one part of your life before that had you hesitating, and now…he's your son. Sort of. It freaks you out a little (a lot), but then you see him smiling, this look in his eyes, and it's okay.
And maybe it's also okay that something's missing. That sometimes you stare off into space when Edward is talking to you, think about the little glitch in your invisible heartbeat. Maybe it's okay that everything's not quite right. Maybe.
Nessie grows and she is beautiful. You take up painting (you have endless time for hobbies, now), and she is your first subject.
You copy the waves of her hair and pay special attention to the brown in her eyes. She looks like Edward, mostly, which you are both glad for and a little freaked out by. You become very good at it; art – you paint her many times, in lots of different ways. You paint Edward and the meadow and Alice and Jasper. You paint Carlisle working and your beautiful home, Emmett bending over with laughter and Jacob smiling with Nessie in his arms. Some of these you show to your family, and others…you don't. You keep them with you and work harder, wondering why your versions are never quite as stunning as the real thing.
Most of the wolves don't stop by much. Jacob is still the Alpha (apparently it's not a job that can be easily given up, though you also know that if he really wanted to, he could. He's good at it, you can tell, even though you're not exactly an expert on these things, and that's enough to keep him there).
His pack consists of Seth, Leah, and Embry, though they meet pretty frequently with Sam's, mostly just to hang out, like they used to. There's not really danger, even since the Volturi left, and even with the Cullens (funny how you still think of it that way) still around, fewer young Quileutes seem to be phasing. Jacob guesses the wolf gene is adapting, or something.
All the same, it's a bit disconcerting for them, knowing that their Alpha has an imprint who's also half-mortal enemy. They tend to stay away, though the treaty has long since been broken.
Seth comes over occasionally, though, and you don't mind. Ever since Charlie and Sue got together you've been seeing more of the Clearwaters (Leah stomps to her room during "family dinners," but it's not like you didn't expect that). He's a sweet kid, and he's got a lot more insight then you give him credit for.
But seeing him (and, on the rare occasion, Embry) reminds you of the life you could've had, and the life you sort of did, at least for a little while. You remember fixing motorcycles and Emily's cooking, and being a wolf-girl. And even if you still believe you made the right choice, that doesn't mean that you don't miss it. Everyone thinks you got the whole package because of Jake and Nessie. The truth is that seeing them together within the confines of your own family isn't the same as belonging to a different one altogether.
And you're not sure what to think about that.
Charlie asks you one day why you did what you did. He's not entirely sure of the terms of agreement, or whatever, but he gets the gist.
"Love," you tell him.
"Edward is a great guy, Bells," he says reluctantly, "and of course I'm happy you're happy, and all that, but…" he stares at you.
"Go on," you say.
"Don't you ever think it's too much?" he asks. "That maybe the price is a little steep? I don't know the specifics, but it seems like a lot to give up for love, sweetie."
You shrug. "Guess you've never been in love like I have, then."
He sighs, giving up. "Guess not."
In 2030, you and Edward decide to take a trip. Renesmee is old enough now to take care of herself, so you leave her the house, with the rest of the Cullens nearby. You travel to places you never imagined you'd go – back to Italy (you want to see Roman art), the gorgeous landscapes of Greece, the top of the Eiffel tower, the Amazon rainforest. You are amazed at all the beautiful things in the world, all the sights you had never bothered to imagine. You realize that for the longest time you were so wrapped up in the world you wanted to live in – Edward's, with its mysteries and endless youth – that you forgot how much left of your world you had yet to see.
You remember when the sun shining on Edward was the most stunning image you could conjure, and you still picture Renesmee as the loveliest being conceivable, but…there's more to it than that. There is history all around you; there are stories even greater than the unforgettable tales you've heard. There are horizons and villages and mountains that can't even be compared to something as simple as a person.
It's a strange feeling, when you finally understand that what you thought was the end was merely the beginning. But it's not necessarily a bad one.
Coming home, things are different. Alice and Jasper have gone to Argentina on a fourty-third honeymoon, and when you walk into the house you notice Jacob and Nessie are holding hands. Not such a strange occurrence, except…it's not in the same way as they used to. You can see the slight squeeze he gives to her before letting go, his gaze following yours. Your stomach muscles clench against a sudden flame.
It's not like you hadn't known this was coming.
Emmett chuckles. "Yeah, thought you'd catch that." He winks at Jacob. "I think you better run, mutt. We don't want a repeat of last time."
You shake your head, dazed. "It's fine," you say. "I'm just…out of it. From traveling. It's fine."
Edward pulls you aside when the welcome-home's are done. "You're not okay," he says. It's not a question.
"Really, though, I am," you insist, sighing. You can feel the heat growing in your insides, forcing you to move. "Give me some time, alright?"
He nods. "Of course."
You run. You don't look at where you're going, merely the speed at which you push forward, one foot in front of the other, the solid feel of ground beneath you. You stop somewhere in the forest, and it's not long before you begin to cry, vampire-cry, with dry sobs and choking invisible tears.
You hear a noise behind you and instinctively growl at the intruder.
"It's just me," they say, and when they move into your peripheral vision you see that it's Seth.
"You shouldn't be here," you tell him.
"Technically, you shouldn't be here. This is our side of the woods."
You get up to leave, but he stops you.
"You don't have to go." He pauses, catches your expression. "Are you okay?"
"I am so sick of people asking me that," you answer.
He laughs. "Yeah, I know the feeling."
You don't say what you want to, which is that he can't, especially since you don't even know what you're feeling. Instead you scoot over on the boulder beneath you, and he sits and stares in silence at your side for as long as you stay.
Life goes back to normal (or as normal as normal can be when you're a vampire hiding in plain sight). You discuss moving out of Forks again, which you've done about ten times already, but decide against it. Charlie's still in decent shape, but you can't deny that he's kind of…old, and you don't want to leave him, not now.
You stay out of the way in terms of people seeing you, since it's not like you need to go to the grocery store or anything, and all the people you want to see know why you still look eighteen anyway. It's a quiet life, but you don't mind. The only really different thing is Renesmee and Jake. You bought Nessie her own house after she graduated from college (yes, she's done the school thing) – it's small and close to yours, and she has her privacy. Jacob is there most of the day, and probably the night, though you very much prefer not to think about that.
It shouldn't bother you so much, you think, because you made your choice a long time ago. In a way, by picking Edward you also forced yourself to take on an old way of thinking in terms of Jacob Black – it's back to the days when you thought of him as your brother, and nothing else. But it's always hard to force feeling, and sometimes you catch yourself drifting when you watch his smile…
Then you realize what exactly it is that you're doing and you stop. You're supposed to be the one with all the self-control, remember?
It's 2050, and Jacob buys Renesmee a ring. He asks Edward first, and you have trouble controlling your laughter just imagining that awkward conversation.
She says yes, of course, and Alice pulls her aside immediately to start planning.
Jake comes to you, next, shows you the diamond (which is beautiful, and perfect), tells you that this is more than a little weird.
"You're…my mother-in-law?" he scoffs.
You crinkle your nose. "Please never say that again."
You tilt your head. "I guess I don't have to tell you that if you hurt her, I'll rip your throat out. Literally."
"No, you don't, but I do like hearing you say it," he chuckles. "Remember when you broke your hand trying to hit me?"
"That was a long time ago," you say. "Things change."
He smiles, and you think for a second that maybe he looks a little sad. "Not all things." But then it's gone, and he's just Jacob, that boy you once loved who's marrying your daughter.
"Not all things," you repeat quietly, looking at the tiny wooden wolf that hangs on your wrist. Neither of you speak for a minute, before he coughs softly.
"I'm gonna go check in with the pack," he says. "Tell them the news, and all."
"Sure, sure," you nod. You watch him walk away, the little blue box clutched in his hand.
You go out a lot lately. Running, mostly. Sometimes you're alone and sometimes you meet Seth, though nothing's ever actually said out loud. Once, Embry is there – you guess Seth might've sent him, since the kid is too polite to ask you about your problems himself.
"Is it Edward?" he says when he sits down.
You sigh. "You don't have to be here. I know you probably don't want to be."
He shrugs. "I'm okay. Is it Ness? It must be weird knowing your daughter's getting married soon."
He tilts his head, eyes you strangely. "It's…Jake, isn't it?"
You don't answer.
"It's that look you have. I remember it from…" he trails off.
"That's not it," you reply quickly.
"I don't get it, though," he says. "Why don't you say something?"
"I could never –" you start, before you realize you've already given too much away. "It doesn't matter anymore," you tell him. "Everything is history. I'm going to live forever so I might as well get used to having things fade away."
"Nah," Embry shakes his head. "I remember it, and," he looks at you carefully, "I'm not even a vampire. Things don't disappear just because you want them to."
"I can try," you whisper, your voice hoarse. "I have to."
Embry doesn't answer right away, but his expression grows soft. "Yeah," he says, "I guess you sort of do."
The wedding is beautiful. It's daisies, not freesia, because they're Nessie's favorite and Alice says they reflect her, or something.
The pack is there, and so is the Denali clan, and Nahuel and the rest of his family, and a few of the Irish coven, too (they all promise to behave themselves), but other than that it's a pretty small crowd. Nessie says she doesn't mind, and you always thought Jacob wouldn't want a big wedding anyway, so…
It's not at all like yours. You remember yours; it was happy and screamed finally with that little tick of almost-regret in the back of your mind. Jacob wasn't the one in the suit, it was Edward, and Jake was the one in the corner with the shitty haircut asking for a dance with the bride.
The biggest difference now isn't the groom placement, or the color of the tablecloths, or the fact that there's no cake, but that the little tick has grown bigger and bigger and now all you can hear is the clock counting down in the place where your heart should be.
But what is it waiting for?
You know you shouldn't, but your head hurts not knowing. When they get back from the honeymoon, you ask him.
"Is it what you wanted?"
He looks confused. "What?"
"Did you…" you can't look at him, so you turn your head. "Did you try to fight the imprint?"
"Bells…" he crinkles his brow. "Why are you asking me this? Are you afraid I'm going to leave Nessie or something? You know I would never –"
You find yourself laughing. "Oh, I know. But did you? Back when it first happened and you were still…you know."
"You want to know the truth?" he asks.
"Of course," he tells you. "Of course I did. Do you know what it feels like to hate someone so much, but love them even more than that?"
"I think I have an idea," she mumbles.
"I tried everything. I just…wasn't strong enough." You still don't look him in the eyes. "I think, maybe, I didn't have a good enough reason to keep fighting." You can feel his gaze on you. "If I had, maybe it would've worked. You know?"
There are a lot of things you want to say. You've kept them in your head where they are safe from Edward, from your family and your future, and you wish you could rip them apart with the same strength you do everything else.
You can't. And you can't say them, either, not out loud, not here, not ever. They stay locked up and when Jacob gives up waiting for an answer and walks away, you imagine yourself running after him, screaming all the things you will never be able to admit.
After all, it's as close as you're going to get.
2080 rolls around, and most of the people you once knew are dead. It's strange, but back when you were seventeen and you were just beginning to think about living forever, you never considered what it would be like when everything that was a part of your old life went away. Yeah, sure, you knew you would lose it – but there's a difference between giving up your childhood and realizing that it's never coming back.
The scene has changed – in fact, you've been incognito for long enough that you can start high school again. You always wondered why the Cullens did this, because even with their claims of seeming normal, you never thought you'd want to go back to high school. But now you see; it's about second chances. They have the perfect set up: they get to relive their glory years over and over, changing things and fixing it all, and, even more than that, they get to watch others see it all for the first time. They get to pretend that they're dealing with teen angst and zits and extra credit even when they know they'll probably never get to experience anything for the first time again.
You never thought you'd miss innocence. But as the years go by you find yourself learning that there are some parts of life, undead or not, that you're just never going to get back.
Jacob sees you watching him. He doesn't say anything, but you know he does just by the way your conversations go. You don't talk much lately, and when you do he has this weird look on his face like he's waiting for you to snap, or something.
And then, one day…you do.
"Why?" you ask him. It just slips out.
"Why what?" he responds incredulously.
"Why do you even bother coming by anymore?" you say. "We're not friends. We haven't been friends for a very long time and you continue to visit almost every day. Why?"
"You're family," he answers.
"Bullshit," you reply, calmly. "Maybe we were, at one point…we were a lot of things. But not now."
"What do you want from me, Bella?" he asks, frustrated. "Do you want me to leave? Do you want me to give you your daughter, go away and never come back? Is that what you really want?"
"I could never do that to Nessie, Jake. You know that," you point out.
"Then why does talking to you feel like waiting for an executioner?"
"Stop playing dumb!" he yells, hands balled into fists. "Stop pretending that this is about only me!"
"Maybe it is," you say, "I mean, there's really –"
"That's the worst part, you know," he interrupts. "The reason why I hate being around you? It's that stupid tone of yours. Like we're at a business meeting or something. Ever since you changed it's like you can't feel, like you don't want to."
"You know that's not true."
"All I know is that I'm sick of feeling like I'm not wanted in my own home," he says. "And, obviously, I'm not. The real question is why can't you be around me, Bella?"
"Because it hurts!" you blurt out. "Because every second I'm around you is like dying, all over again."
"I…" he pauses, swallows, "I don't understand."
"Like hell you don't. I wish I hated you, Jacob. I really, sincerely wish even one little part of me wanted you gone. Then maybe I could actually have the guts to make you go."
He sighs, clenches his jaw. "I'm married to your daughter. I can't just…"
"God, don't you think I know that?" you laugh, bitterly. "Don't you think I hate myself enough as it is?"
"I can't do this again, Bells."
"Then go away!" you scream. "Just leave me alone!"
"You act like this is all my fault," he says, angrily.
"Well, it is!"
"I don't have control over any of this!" he shouts. "Come on, Bella, be honest. We both know this fucked-up…thing is all thanks to you."
"Ugh!" you let out a strangled yell. "Just get the hell away from me!"
"I was planning to!" he spits back.
"Good," you sneer.
And then, somehow, your mouth is on his. And it's too hot and painful and ugly.
But most of all, it's perfect.
Of course it's unfair. Life is unfair (and, you've realized now, un-life is, too). You tell Jacob that, along with other things, like why and I wish and we shouldn't be doing this. You tell him how you're an idiot and a horrible person and he shushes you before you can catch the look in his eyes that says he agrees.
Nessie's gone, now. Not from your life, obviously, she's your daughter – but her words were it just isn't the same and she left to travel the world and "find herself." It sounds a bit like college to you, and you wonder why she hasn't done it already, but then you never really went to that, not officially, so what would you know?
Edward won't look you in the eyes, which is okay, because it's not like you can either. Alice turns away, and Jasper never even bothers to try. Emmett's half smile is unconvincing, and Rosalie – God, Rosalie – her pity wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't plastered with I told you so's in the smirk of her perfect lips. Everyone knows, and no one does.
You kiss in the woods and hide out in a hotel in Seattle; you trace the lines of his body with your tongue, and it burns and burns and you leave before the sun comes up so he won't really see you (like he doesn't already know what you are). And you hate yourself. Every day.
But it's just so much better to feel alive.
You're in the woods when he comes by again.
"So," he says, "I guess everything's good now, huh?"
You laugh loudly. "Oh, yeah, everything's absolutely perfect."
Embry smiles. "You know, I always thought you would end up together. Even after everything that happened."
"Well," you respond carefully. You can't finish the sentence, though.
"You're sort of an idiot," he tells you.
"Yeah," you sigh. "That I do know."
You sit for a while. You imagine what life must be like for Embry, and you think about how you used to wonder why he never imprinted or even just settled down. You don't really wonder anymore.
The way you see it, Embry is just another path your life could have taken. Possibly for the better.
Edward…he isn't your fairytale. He never was. Neither is Jacob, for that matter, but that's beside the point. You were looking for a way out of an ordinary life – something that could promise a happy ending without having to deal with the scary things like starting over and making friends and break-ups and divorce and dying. You didn't realize that life, in all its forms (even the after-kind), has sadness. It's always going to be scary and full of things you're not ready for.
You tell Jacob to stop phasing, to grow old and die. You tell him to love a thousand times over and to feel his heartbeat – that promise that the next day will not be the same as the last. You tell him to see the sun rise without worrying about being caught, and to cry at his friends' funerals and to move on. You tell him to live.
Jake says that he loves you. He tells you that a stagnant forever with you is worth more than all the heartbeats and funerals in the world.
And maybe it is, for now. But you know that one day he'll get tired of forever, and then he'll get the chance to do all the things you never got to and never will be able to, and – in one, twisted way – that gives you hope.