A/N – Here is the final chapter.
Chapter 15 – See You When I See You
I walked around a crowd of German tourists and made my way to my favorite spot on the Rialto Bridge. Coming to Venice had been just what I needed after Leah's bombshell…after my life had been shattered into oblivion.
When I had left Jacob's house that fateful day over a month and a half ago, I had gone straight to Forks to see my Grandpa Carlisle. I told him I needed to get out of town. My grandfather owned an apartment in Venice. I had so many fond memories of going there as a child with my parents. I begged him to let me use it only to be told he'd loaned it to an Italian friend and his wife.
My grandfather had looked at me worriedly when he told me this. He probably had noticed the blatant horror in my eyes that I couldn't quite hide after finding out about Jacob's past relationship with my mom. My grandpa ended up calling his friend on my behalf and asked if I could stay with them for awhile. The answer we received was that I was more than welcome.
Dr. Aro Volaterrae and his wife, Jane, had been kind to me, though I had to admit I was a little creeped out by their relationship. Aro was in his sixties; Jane was younger than me. I wasn't really in the position to judge them considering I had fallen in love with a man my parents' age, but Jacob was only seventeen years older than me. There was a good forty-seven years age difference between Aro and his wife. But it was obvious that Jane was the one in charge of their relationship. She'd just smile at him in a certain way and Aro would be putty in her hands. Still, they gave me my privacy. They never once asked me why I came to the breakfast table each morning with puffy eyes, though I'd felt Aro's concerned gaze on me more than once.
The truth was that I wasn't ready to talk to anyone about what I'd learned. I couldn't even think about it without getting queasy. I realized just this morning though that I'd have to head back home soon. And classes for school had started two weeks ago. If I stayed any longer, I'd have to drop the semester.
A part of me didn't care. I didn't think school was in my foreseeable future now anyway. Plus, I couldn't work up any enthusiasm for my major anymore. Physical therapy reminded me too much of Jacob.
I felt myself frown as I watched a gondola lazily go by on the canal below. I wondered for what felt like the millionth time how Jake was doing. He had left me frantic voicemails soon after I left him, begging me to talk to him…to let him explain. I never returned his messages. The calls had dwindled to once a day over the past couple of weeks. I hadn't received any the last few days. I probably could have called my mother to find out how he was, but Jacob was now a taboo topic between us.
After I had made the arrangements with my grandfather to go to Venice, I had gone to Bremerton to confront my mom. She hadn't appeared surprised to see me when I arrived, which meant that Jake must have called her before I got there. The idea of them discussing me, or even talking at all had sent me into a rage. I'd immediately confronted her.
"How could you not tell me that you and Jake used to have sex? Didn't you think I had a right to know after you found out I was dating him?" I yelled, the volume of my voice rising emotionally with each word.
"Ness, please," my mother said, her face paler than normal. My mom and I both had very light complexions. I wondered agonizingly if that was another reason Jacob had been drawn to me…because I had the same coloring as my mom. She looked at me, silently pleading for understanding. "It was a long time ago. Let the past stay in the past."
"He slept with you!" I spat out, struggling for breath as the pain of that reminder sliced through me.
"Before you were even born!" my mom countered. "Why get upset over something that happened so long ago when Jake and I were only teenagers?"
I shook my head as I stared at her in disbelief. "How can I not get upset? He had sex with you. He's wanted you ever since. And when he couldn't be with you he slept with me! How can that be okay?"
"I didn't know he slept with you," my mother whispered.
"But you had to have known that was coming," I responded bitterly. "You knew we were dating. And you couldn't bother to mention that you had sex with him first?"
"You found out about my past with Jake after he slept with you?"
"Yes," I confirmed, feeling my eyes well with tears.
"Oh Jacob, that idiot," my mother murmured before looking at me. "Ness, sit down."
She pointed at the couch. I wanted to defy her childishly, but I did as I was told. She sat down next to me and reached for my one hand. I quickly moved it so she couldn't touch me. She flinched as though I'd slapped her.
"Renesmee, you need to understand something. Jake and I have been friends for a long time, even before we dated. After his mother died though, things changed briefly between us. He needed comfort in his life; some kind of womanly affection. I was it. The sex was born out of my need to comfort him. As soon as I met your dad though, Jake's and my relationship went back to how it always should have been…friends and nothing more."
"So in other words, if you hadn't met Dad, you'd still be with him," I replied, my heart breaking all over again.
"No," she said with a shake of the head. "Jake and I weren't meant for each other."
"You might have stopped loving him," I told her, tears finally spilling from my eyes. "But he's loved you ever since you two broke up."
My mother reached up and wiped a tear away from my cheek before I could stop her. "Honey, he doesn't love me."
"He pretty much admitted it," I argued back.
My mom shook her head. "Jacob's a stubborn ass. When he gets an idea in his head, he doesn't let it go. But that's just it. It was an idea. I think Jake needed to hold onto something familiar after his mother died. He may have thought he was in love with me, but he hasn't been for a long time. Maybe not ever."
I scoffed. "Is that what you seriously believe? I saw him with my own eyes, Mom. All these years he's worshipped you."
"No baby, you're wrong on that," my mother insisted. "I mean, Jake loves me, sure. But he's not in love with me."
"Why are you denying it?" The little patience I had left was running out.
"Because," my mother replied firmly. "I've never seen Jacob look at anyone, including me, the way he looks at you."
I sucked in a breath at that, unable to answer.
"I know Jake, Renesmee. He loves you very much. He's crazy about you. All I've ever wanted was for him to find some happiness in his life. He hasn't had a lot. He's lost so much…his mother, his father, his child. The one beacon of light in Jacob's darkness has always been you, even when you were just a kid. I remember all the times he used to show up at our house looking so lost. Yet you always had a way to reach him and make him smile. I know how much it bothered him when you distanced yourself from him after he married Leah. He used to ask me about you all the time. Then after your twentieth birthday, Jake's questions changed. He'd ask me things a married man shouldn't ask…questions regarding if you were dating anyone, if it was serious. He seemed so jealous when I told him about Nahuel. I remember even teasing him a few times, telling him he had a crush on you. But it was when I saw you two in the hospital together…that's when I knew. It was so obvious that you were in love with one another. Why do you think I suggested you help him with his physical therapy?"
She smiled sadly at me and said, "He needs you, Nessie. And you need him, too. I want you both to be happy. Don't let something that happened before you were born ruin your relationship."
"Mom…I'm just so confused," I confessed. "I need time away. To get used to the idea of y-you and him."
"I understand," she said, tucking a tendril of my hair behind my ear. "Just think about what I said while you're gone, okay?"
"Nessie…" She seemed hesitant. "We're all right, aren't we?"
I looked at her before slowly nodding. It hurt, her past with Jacob. But I knew in my heart she wanted what was best for me.
She looked relieved before she asked, "When will I see you again?"
"I don't know." I shrugged. "I'll see you when I see you. But I'll think about what you said while I'm gone, I promise."
I kept my word, too. All I thought about over the past month and a half was what she'd said to me. We talked a few times on the phone since then, but my mother had the good sense to never bring up topics that would threaten the fragile thread of our relationship. She kept our conversations neutral. She had tried bringing up Jacob only once, but I had immediately interrupted and threatened to end communication with her if she brought him up again. It hurt too much to talk about him, especially with my mom. She never discussed Jacob after that, though I had the feeling she wanted to. My father, on the other hand, was surprisingly not so reserved on the topic.
"Nessie, why don't you give Jake a call?" he implored a few weeks ago.
"I can't believe this," I muttered. "I don't want to talk about him, Dad. You of all people should understand—"
"Renesmee, what happened between your mother and Jacob has nothing to do with you. Hell, it has nothing to do with even me. If anyone has a right to be upset about their past relationship, don't you think it should be me? Your mother didn't stop being friends with Jake after she and I began dating. She even insisted that he be your godfather. I agreed to it, and I never once regretted it. I could have been an ass. I could have insisted that Jacob stay out of our lives. I would have missed out on a having a great friend if I had. And need I remind you that you were the one who wanted a relationship with Jake. No one ever comes without baggage."
"That's a lot of baggage to accept," I protested bitterly.
My father sighed tiredly over the phone. "If you love someone, you accept everything about that person. Jake's still the same person you fell in love with, Ness. He's still the same guy that you've always known. Sure, he's made some horrible mistakes. I told him when you came to see us that he needed to tell you the truth. I think he was scared though…probably because he knew you'd react in the exact manner that you did. You claim to be an adult. Act like it. Adults don't run away. They face their problems."
I swallowed painfully. "Dad, it just…it hurts so much."
"I know it hurts. He loved someone else before you. But Ness, he's seventeen years older than you. Of course he would have loved someone else before you. He's got a few years ahead of you, kid. It would have been strange if he hadn't been in love before. But Jake has always adored you. He'd never do anything to deliberately hurt you, which is probably why he avoided telling you about the past in the first place. Ness, call him. Who cares that once upon a time he loved your mother? It's you he loves now."
"I'll consider it," I told him, though I knew it was still too soon.
I think my father must have sensed my hesitation because he said, "Jake…he's not doing so well."
My heart instantly worried. "Is he not doing his physical therapy?"
"No, actually in that department he's been working overtime—"
"Dad," I said, finally reaching my limit. "I know you mean well and I know you think I'm being childish, but I just can't have this conversation anymore. I don't want to talk about Jake. Please respect that."
"Fine," my father said in frustration. "But let me just say this. Think about calling him. Last time I saw him—I don't know—he looked really worn down. But his eyes…there was something unsettling in them, like he was barely holding on. He needs you, baby."
"Goodbye Dad." I'd ended the conversation then and that was the last time my father brought Jacob up.
Of course I never tried to get a hold of Jake. I knew I was being stupid and overdramatic, but I needed this time away from him. I needed time to think. It wasn't the fact that Jake slept with my mom that bothered me so much. The problem was that I didn't know if Jake's feelings for me had ever been real. I couldn't help but wonder if he only said he loved me because I reminded him of my mother. How did I ever know that Jake loved me for me, and not as some pathetic substitute for the woman he really wanted? My mom had said he never looked at anyone like he looked at me. But how did I know if he was looking at me and only seeing her?
I felt someone approach me, but I ignored them as my thoughts continued to linger over my painful self-doubt.
"You were right," I heard a deep familiar voice say next to me. My stomach lurched and my hands began to tremble as I spun quickly in shock. Jacob was standing a few feet away from me.
"I-I was?" I replied, barely able to form the sentence.
"The view here is amazing," Jake stated, nodding towards the water, never taking his eyes off of me. "You once told me when we first started doing physical therapy together that this was your favorite spot in the world. You said that when you were little you used to picture returning here someday with the man of your dreams so that you could both enjoy the romantic view. I had asked if you had the guy picked out, but you never answered me, remember?"
"That's because it was you," I whispered before I could stop myself. Jacob closed his eyes in response. I noticed the purple circles of exhaustion under them.
That wasn't the only thing I noticed. Jake was standing in front of me, leaning heavily on a white cane. He opened his eyes and stared at me tenderly before taking a couple of stiff steps towards me.
And that's when it really hit me. Jacob was in Venice. He was walking towards me!
He was walking!
"You…you're walking," I stated in shock.
"Yeah," Jake confirmed with a half smile though his eyes were dark and serious. "I would have been here as soon as you left me, but your parents wouldn't tell me where you had gone. They're both pretty pissed at me…said I had to clean up my own mess. And then about a week after you left, I woke up one morning to sharp, excruciating pain in both of my legs."
He chuckled briefly. "I never thought I'd be so happy to be in pain. You called it. You said it was a good sign that my last spasm was close to my thigh. I spent the past month doing hardcore physical therapy. I had a lot of motivation to get back on my feet, you see."
He stopped walking when there was less than a foot between us. He put the cane against the bridge and placed a hand on the structure to steady himself. He never looked away from me as he continued to speak.
"Then things got a little messy with my divorce. I had everything taken away from Leah. She tried to fight it, but it looked really bad on her end that she served me divorce papers as soon as she found out I was paralyzed. It took a few more weeks then expected, but the divorce is now official. I was going to try to come see you last weekend, but of course, something else came up. Jenny and Seth eloped in Reno and they wanted me to be there—"
"Seth and Jenny are married?"
"Yep." Jacob grinned, causing my heart to leap practically out of my chest.
I shook my head, still in disbelief that Jake was here. "How did you end up-"
"Finding you?" He reached out as if to touch me, but dropped his hand, most likely worried that I'd reject him. "Carlisle told me."
"My grandfather told you where I was?" I asked incredulously.
"Well," Jacob said, looking suddenly mischievous. "Not by choice. I was going crazy trying to figure out where you were. You wouldn't answer my calls. And like I said, your parents wouldn't tell me anything. I knew you hadn't returned to school. Then I thought about how much you said you loved this place. I also remembered that your family had the apartment here. I went to Carlisle and said something like, 'How's Ness enjoying Venice?' He thought I already knew where you were so he confirmed it and said you seemed homesick last time he spoke to you."
"That was pretty low," I murmured, though I suddenly found that I didn't really mind.
Jacob's face turned serious. "Ness, if you want me to go, I'll leave. But will you hear me out first?"
I wanted to remain indifferent and tell him I didn't want to listen. But then I looked into Jake's eyes, and I saw something that made me pause. Even after the accident he never looked like he did just now.
Jacob had fear in his eyes. He was scared…scared that I'd tell him to go away. My heart melted a little against my will, and I felt myself nodding. Jacob visibly relaxed, his shoulders dropping in relief.
He gave me a small smile before turning and looking out at the canal. "It's funny…life, I mean. For so long, I thought I wanted something—something I couldn't have. I fixated on it for years and it blinded me. I didn't realize that I was holding onto something I didn't want anymore."
"Are you going to deny that you loved my mother?" I questioned coldly. He glanced back at me, his expression sad.
"No, I'm not going to deny it," he admitted, ignoring my gasp of shock. "The truth is I do love Bella. I always have, I always will."
He reached out and touched my cheek then, running his fingertips across my skin. I stiffened and tried to pull away, but Jacob moved quickly, grabbing my shoulders and giving me a little shake.
"That doesn't mean I'm in love with her, Ness. Sometimes I wonder if my feelings for her were ever as deep as I thought they were."
"How can you say that?" I asked angrily. "Are you really so fucking fickle?"
Jake looked pained as he let me go, his hands dropping to his sides. He continued on as if I hadn't just insulted him. "Loving Bella was a safe option for me. I held onto what I thought was love for her, like a kid holds onto a security blanket. If I loved Bella, I wouldn't be risking my heart on someone else. On someone who could breakup with me. On someone who could leave me or die."
He frowned, lost in thought. I wondered what he was thinking about. Was he thinking about my mom who dumped him for another man? Perhaps his mother who he lost at such a young age. Or maybe he was thinking about his poor son who never had a chance at life. Jake's face lightened as he turned his gaze back to me, his lips tugging into a smile. My mother's voice echoed in my mind.
The one beacon of light in Jacob's darkness has always been you, even when you were just a kid...you always had a way to reach him and make him smile…he needs you, Nessie.
I slowly smiled back at him. I get it now, Mom. I heard Jake's breath catch as he lifted his hands and cupped my cheeks.
"So there I was, secure in the knowledge that my heart was safe. And then you happened," he murmured. "I saw you in that goddamn purple dress on your twentieth birthday, looking so beautiful and vulnerable, and that was it. My safety net was ripped away from me, and for the first time in my life I was in love…really in love. Not that I wanted to acknowledge it. Up until the accident happened, I even pretended that it was Bella I still wanted. I kept telling myself, this is Nessie—this is your god-daughter. She's too young and full of life to be with a cynical fuck-up like you. But nothing I told myself mattered. From the moment I saw you at that party, you've been it for me."
"How do I know I'm not a substitute for my mother?" I whispered my worst fear.
Jacob moved so that his forehead was resting against mine. "Don't you get it? She was a substitute for you. The truth is, I forgot all about Bella the moment you re-entered my life. I love you, Renesmee. If I had someway of knowing what you would mean to me one day—some magical sign telling me that you were my soul mate—I would have lived my life very differently. But I can't change the past. All I can ask is that you find a way to forgive me."
He pulled his head back so that he could look at me. "Give me another chance to show you how much I love you…please."
He held himself stiffly, as though already anticipating my rejection. Yet it still didn't stop him from pleading, his eyes desperate. In that moment, I realized the past didn't matter anymore. My dad was right. Jacob might have loved my mom a long time ago, but he loved me now. And that was all that mattered.
"Jacob," I finally said, feeling relieved that I could accept his love again. I closed the distance between us and wrapped my arms around his waist. His arms instantly embraced me, holding me to him as though he'd never let me go.
"I love you," he told me, burying his face in my hair. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too," I told him softly and felt his body shudder in response.
"My angel," he murmured.
"What?" I pulled back to look at him. Jacob leaned down and lightly kissed the tip of my nose.
"When I was injured," he explained, "I heard someone next to my bed, pleading for me to wake up. That was you, wasn't it?"
"Yes," I admitted.
Jake shook his head in disbelief. "All this time my angel was with me. You saved me, Nessie."
"You saved yourself," I responded.
He gave me a mock frown. "Don't argue with me, woman. I'm trying to be romantic here."
"Sorry," I said with a grin which he responded to with one of his own. He pulled my hands from around his waist and held them in his.
"It started with these," he told me, bringing my one hand to his mouth and kissing the back of it before doing the same to the other. "You have healing hands, do you know that? When I was unconscious in the hospital, I remember the feel of them on me. They felt so soft and comforting as you held my hand. I never wanted you to let me go. Then after we started our physical therapy sessions and I'd have spasms, you'd massage my back, always knowing how to make me feel better. I used to think your hands were magical. You made the pain go away."
His voice was gruff with emotion when he added, "I wouldn't be standing here today if it weren't for you. Your determination to get me to walk again...your constant hope and encouragement…I became addicted to it. You gave me something to fight for. Even after you left me, I was determined to get back on my feet for you. But even if I never walked again, it wouldn't have mattered because of you. You gave me my life back."
I was going to deny my role in his recovery, but I never got the chance. Jacob bent down and kissed my lips. Our mouths fused together hungrily, reuniting after so long apart. A cat call ringing through the air made us break away from each other, like two kids caught making out in the hallway by the school principal. We laughed shamefacedly as we looked at each other. Jake reached out and ran his thumb across my bottom lip.
"Nessie," he whispered tenderly. "You've given me so much. I just wish there was something I could give you in return."
"Actually, you already did," I murmured as he began to kiss the shell of my ear.
"I was thinking just this morning I needed to return to Washington," I told him.
Jake nodded as he pulled away from me, his hand going to the back of my neck to massage it. "I half expected you to come home before now. As it is, you're going to be behind in your classes."
"Well…that's the thing. I'm not sure if I'll be going back to school anytime soon."
"What?" Jake said sternly. "That's ridiculous. Ness, you're too good at your job to throw your career away—"
I covered his mouth with my hand before he could go into full lecture mode. "Jake, I'm pregnant."
He was about to pull my hand away when he froze, my words slow to register.
"What'd you say?" he asked, his voice muffled against my hand. I removed it and looked at him, glowing.
"I'm pregnant. We're going to have a baby. I took a pregnancy test this morning and it came back positive."
"Yeah?" he asked in shock. "But I…we used protection."
My face blushed as I thought back to the week long orgy of sexual delight we'd had before I left. "We did use protection…with the exception of that first time."
"The penthouse patio," Jacob confirmed, his eyes widening.
"Yep," I replied.
"A baby," he said, his voice suddenly filled with wonderment. Maybe it was the Italian sunlight playing tricks on me, but I thought I saw moisture in Jake's eyes as his hand went to my flat stomach, caressing the area where his child rested inside me.
He bent down and lightly brushed my lips with his, whispering, "thank you."
He repeated that word to me seven and a half months later when I gave birth to our beautiful, healthy baby boy, Jonathan Jacob. J.J. quickly stole both of our hearts, along with the hearts of his grandparents, godparents Seth and Jenny, and anyone else who laid eyes on him. He was so easy to love, especially as he was a little miniature of his proud father.
It had been a whirlwind several months before the birth of our son. Jacob and I married in Venice before we returned home. We immediately moved into our new penthouse in Seattle. As a wedding present, Jacob hired world-renowned interior designer Demetri Tracker to help with decorating our place. Demetri was a force to be reckoned with. He had the penthouse in move-in condition within no time.
Neither Jacob nor I wanted a nanny to raise our child, so Jake decided to work from home and stay with J.J., giving me the opportunity to attend classes and continue with my education. It was just one of the many endless gestures of love my husband did for me. Every day he showed me in a hundred different ways how much he loved me.
And every day I was reminded how lucky I truly was. I had everything I ever wanted because of Jake. For years—ever since I fell in love with him when I was just a little girl—I had felt an uneasy restlessness, as though I were seeking something that was always out of my grasp. Now…all I felt was peace.
Jacob might have thought I healed him, but he was wrong.
We had healed each other.
So that's it! Thank you to Dazz and Jessica for their help beta'ing this story.
Also, I wanted to say thanks to all of you who read my story and a special shout-out to those who took a moment to comment on each chapter while this story was a work in progress. I've had the best time writing this and have met some incredible people. This was my first attempt at writing something that was AH/AU (usually I only write canon). Your feedback helped me and kept me motivated. I really appreciate you for supporting me while I tried to write a different genre. LOL, I also appreciate you being kind while I turned Leah (who's one of my favorite characters) into a raging OOC bitch. The poor girl, but someone had to be the bad guy.
Now with this being the last chapter, I'd love to hear from all of you and your thoughts on the story. I'm going to answer each review, so if you have any questions left over, please include them. :)