Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to us.

Author's Notes: I actually started this story at this time last year, but never finished it. Now that I've completed my big pre-Twilight fic, I decided to resurrect my post-Breaking Dawn one;) And after seeing New Moon for a third time, I really wanted to give Jacob something to smile about. I hope you enjoy this!

Winter Moon

by Kristen Elizabeth

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. - George Carlin

She never remembered crawling into his bed, but her family had lost count of the number of times they'd gone to wake Renesmee and found her curled up in innocent sleep alongside Jacob Black's long, muscled body.

When she still looked like a little girl, no one minded. Imprint notwithstanding, Jacob viewed Bella and Edward's young daughter with the eyes of a devoted big brother. Nessie, after all, was only half-vampire and was often merely seeking out Jacob's warmth on the coldest of Oregon nights, body heat she wouldn't find in any other bed in their new house. Snuggled up against Jacob's broad chest, her tiny fingers resting over his beating heart, Nessie slept more deeply than she did even when nestled between her mother and her father.

But although only seven years had passed since her dramatic entrance into the world, one day Jacob woke up to find a beautiful young woman in his bed.

And two extremely angry vampires glaring down at him.

Immediately, Jacob put his hands up in the air. "I didn't touch her!"

His sudden movements woke up the bronze-haired beauty. Lifting her head from his chest, Nessie blinked her bottomless brown eyes and looked around, sleepy and confused. "I did it again, didn't I?" She glanced up at the vampires with a sheepish smile. "Morning, Daddy."

Edward Cullen sighed, unable to maintain his fury when his daughter looked at him like that. "Nessie, come on. It's almost time for school."

In the past, Nessie would have tumbled from the bed with the adorable bounce of a very small fairy. Now, she slipped out from under the covers and rose to her feet with all the grace of a lithe goddess. "I'm sorry, Jake," she said, her tangled curls cascading over her shoulders. "See you at breakfast."

Her father followed her out of the room, leaving a half-naked and almost defenseless Jacob to deal with Nessie's mother.

"Bella," he started, sitting up in bed. "I swear, I'll start locking my door if I have to. I know what this looks like."

Her golden eyes were narrowed at him to the point where he wasn't sure his old friend could even see him through the thin slits. Bella was quiet for a long moment, as if choosing the best possible combination of words. "She's only seven, Jake. She might look eighteen, but she's not."

"You think I don't know that?"

"I think..." She stopped. "I don't know what I think," she admitted, sinking down onto the edge of the bed. Right then, she looked more human to him than she had since the day she became a vampire. The day she'd brought Nessie into the world. "What am I supposed to do? You imprinted on her."

"That doesn't mean I ever have to lay a hand on her."

"Don't give me that crap. I know what the whole wolfy imprint thing is about. Making little wolves."

"We don't even know if Nessie can..."

Bella cut him off with a dangerous snarl. "Don't even go there, Jake!

"Hey, you went there first!" Under the full weight of her vampire glare, he continued, "I will be whatever she needs me to be. And if one day she wants me like that..." He smiled wryly. "I should be so lucky."

"At least you realize that," Bella snapped. But it was impossible for her not to stay mad at one of her oldest and dearest friends. She sighed softly. "She just grew up so fast. And I know I should be grateful that I got to have a child at all, but it's only been a few years. Sometimes I go into her room expecting to find her sitting up in her crib, wanting to play patty-cake. And then I remember..." She snorted delicately. "Physically, she's almost the same age I was when I had her."

Jacob scratched his fingers through his short black hair with a sigh. "Believe me. I'm aware." He stood up, towering over her as he put his massive hand on her slender, solid shoulder. "But Bella, you really don't have to worry. I don't think she thinks of me any differently than she does Emmett or Jasper." He shrugged. "I'm her friend, an uncle, really. Nothing more."

Bella rolled her eyes. "Why are men such idiots?" she muttered to herself.

"What do you mean?" he asked, frowning.

"Jake." Bella stood up from the edge of the bed, but it didn't do much to close the gap between their heights. Still, she reached up to lay her cold hand against his cheek. "She's falling in love with you."

He stared at her, like she'd slapped him across the face. "That's...no. No." He took a few steps back, shaking his head. "Why would you say something stupid like that?"

"For kicks, of course," she scowled. "Because jokes about my seven year-old being in love with my oldest friend are hilarious." Bella folded her arms tightly after a few moments of tense silence. "Since you're not that great of an actor, I guess this really is a shock to you."

"I swear to god..." Hanging his head, Jacob balled up his fists. "I had no idea, Bells."

She acknowledged this with a question. "What are you going to do now that you know?"

"No idea," he admitted. Seconds slipped by. "Want the truth? The whole and nothing but?"

"You know it," Bella replied.

Jacob lifted his gaze to meet hers. "My body tells me that she's old enough and I'm old enough and she's my soulmate." Before Bella had the chance to react to this, he continued, "But in my head...I still see the little girl who invited me to a tea party with her dolls." His lip curled up in a snarl. "Disgusting, right? I should be locked up."

"Jake," she sighed softly. "I don't think that."

"Edward would. Actually, he wouldn't bother with jail. He'd just outright kill me." Jacob snorted. "Do you know how hard I have to concentrate to keep from thinking certain things around him?"

Bella arched an eyebrow. "Edward isn't really in a position to judge you. He was over eighty years old when I was born."

"True." Another minute passed. "Ever wonder what our lives would have been like if none of this supernatural crap was true and we were just normal?" Jacob finally asked. When she said nothing, he nodded ruefully. "Yeah, I didn't think you did. Life without Eddy." He flared his hands dramatically. "Not worth living."

"Don't be like that."

His apology was only half-hearted. "Sorry. My head's a little messy right now." He drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. His abnormal lung capacity gave him just enough time to consider his options. "I think I should go back to La Push. Today."

Bella stared at him. "You're going to leave? Just like that?"

"What choice do I have, Bella?"

"There has to be something other than just up and disappearing!" She glared at him. "That's never the right solution. Trust me."

"This won't be anything like that," Jacob assured her. "I'm not going to cut myself out of her life completely. Even if I wanted to...I couldn't." Jacob squared his shoulders, shaking off the pressure that squeezed his heart at the thought of never seeing Nessie again. "But I can take myself out of the equation for awhile. Put some distance between us. Maybe it'll make things...easier."

Bella worried at her lower lip with her sharp teeth. "You'll come back? You promise?"

He struggled through a reassuring smile. "Like you could get rid of me that easily."

The scent of bacon drifted up the stairs from the kitchen and Jake's stomach rumbled loud enough to break the moment. Bella watched him pull on a shirt and head down the stairs to the kitchen where Esme was preparing a breakfast that would have fed the whole family, but was only meant for him. As soon as he was gone, Edward appeared in the door.

"Is it true?" He stepped into the room. "Is he really leaving?"

She nodded. "But tell Rosalie to hold off on celebrating. He'll be back." She closed her eyes when her husband drew her close and pressed a kiss into her hair. "I want him to be happy, Edward. He deserves it."

"Believe it or not, I agree with you."

"Why wouldn't I believe it?" Bella looked up at him with a secret smile. "You've always been more forgiving than me."

"I know what it's like to face the possibility of a very long and lonely life. And I wouldn't wish that on anyone." His expression darkened. "Not even the werewolf who loves my daughter."

"Technically, he's the shape-shifter who loves our daughter." She wrapped her arms around Edward's waist. "Are you going to kill him?"

"No. But only because it would hurt Nessie."

"No thought at all for the well-being of our future son-in-law?"

"Bella, really." Edward made a face. "Must you put it like that?"

Arm in arm, they left the bedroom and started downstairs to join the rest of their family.

"It's going to snow on Christmas." With half of her beautiful face hidden behind her oversized mittens, all Jacob could see of Renesmee were her warm chocolate brown eyes as she looked up at him. "Aunt Alice promises."

Because she wanted him to, and there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for her, Jacob smiled at this news. "I predict an epic snowball fight," he said, putting a finger to his temple, pretending to see into the future as her aunt did. "Your father and Jasper versus Emmett."

"You won't be helping Uncle Em?"

Suddenly, the Oregon woods seemed much colder. Jacob took a deep breath. "No," he said after letting it out slowly. "He'll have to cream them on his own." The words he'd waited all day to tell her were going to hurt them both. "I won't be here for Christmas."

Watching her face fall made him feel like the worst scum of the universe. Standing there, unable to do anything to make her smile again, was nothing short of torture.

"You're leaving me?" she whispered.

"This isn't about you, Nessie." He tempered his harsh reply with a gentler, "I just have to go."

"You don't want to, though," she finally said. Her voice, although soft and musical, seemed loud within the empty, silent woods. "I can see it in your eyes." She tilted her head to the side, her long, bronze ponytail falling over her shoulder. "But you're still going. Why?"

"Family obligations," he lied. "Pack responsibilities." He swallowed heavily. "You won't even miss me."

Nessie's smile was sad. "It'll be like someone cut off my arm and you know it."

Somewhere in the distance, an owl cooed. "Nessie, when I get backā€¦" He stopped to let out a rueful chuckle, his warm breath visible in the cold air. "I guess we really need to talk, don't we?"

Slipping her pale hand out from her mitten, she reached for his cheek. But he saw her coming and took a large step back. "I can't be inside your head right now," he said, looking down at the wet ground beneath their feet. "I can barely stand my own thoughts." Glancing up at her, he added a strangled, "And feelings."

Nessie took a careful step towards him. "If they're anything close to mine, you should know how right they feel."

"Nothing about this is right." Jacob pushed his hands through his black hair. "Because it doesn't feel wrong, Nessie. And it should. It really, really should."

Another few steps put her right up against him, close enough that he could smell her. For someone who lived in a house of stinking vampires, she somehow managed to smell like sunshine and apples and sweet grass. He tried not to inhale, but he couldn't help himself. He would need the memory of her scent while he was in La Push.

"I'm not a little girl anymore," she reminded him. "And I know what I want."

Unable to fight temptation any longer, Jacob dipped his head at the same time she rose up on her toes. When their lips touched, he knew he was a dead man. If Edward, wherever he was, could see what was going through Jacob's mind, the ways in which he wanted to touch Nessie, there would be a vampire/wolf showdown...and Jacob was pretty sure he'd lose.

But she was warm, so much warmer than someone who was half-vampire ever should have been. She was slender and supple, but deceptively strong. When he grabbed her and hauled her up against his chest, her whimper was in pleasure rather than protest.

The slender fingers of her right hand twisted into his hair as their mouths met and melded over and over again. With her other hand, she tugged at the buttons of his shirt until she could reach inside and touch his skin.

When her palm covered the flesh over his rapidly-beating heart, Jacob broke the kiss. They stared at one another, panting for breath, each expelled whisper of air swirling around their faces.

He wasn't sure if she backed up against the nearby tree trunk or if he pushed her up against it, but within seconds his body covered hers against the sturdy sequoia and he kissed her again, harder this time, greedy for the sweet taste of her mouth.

"Jake," she moaned, snaking her arms around his neck.

All of a sudden, he froze. In slow motion, he drew back and saw her...eyes closed, lips parted and slightly swollen, cheeks flushed...and crippling guilt struck him. This was Renesmee...Nessie...daughter of the first woman he'd ever loved and the vampire who'd taken her life. Imprint be damned...it wasn't supposed to happen like this. Not yet. Not when he still had very clear memories of her birth.

With a snarl of self-disgust, Jake pushed away from the tree. "Go home, Nessie," he barked when he was a safe distance from her.

"Jake, I..."


He waited for the crunch of dead leaves and twigs beneath her feet that signaled her retreat, but he should have known her better. When he glanced over his shoulder, she was exactly where he'd left her. Her face was paler than he'd ever seen it before and her eyes were wet with unshed tears.

"I love you," Nessie whispered. "Why is that wrong?"

The owl hooted again, a lonely sound that echoed in the silent woods. "I have to go," Jacob eventually said. Without waiting for a reply, he phased, the sudden change in his body mass ripping his clothes to shreds. As fast as he could, he sprinted away from her scent.

But he could still taste her. She tasted like perfect sin.

To Be Continued