Chapter 9- 3 Years Faking.
a/n. Takes place 3 years after the last chapter.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a peaceful afternoon. Between Seth's constant company and Leah's hormonal rampages, it was usually rather irritating just to be. Throw in a few other loud, obtrusive members of the pack and Jacob's hair would be falling out by the end of each day, only to grow back through the night as he slept. His head was usually pounding and his chest was usually heavy with agitated tension, all accumulating to an inevitable outburst on his part directed at someone who probably didn't deserve it. Yeah, times were tough. But not today. Today he was alone and he was calm and the weather was absolutely perfect, allowing him to perch on his favorite spot down beside the Cleawater's lake. The sun was hovering between midday and evening and the breeze gave just the right amount of release from the unusual heat that'd been gracing La Push and Forks for the past week or so. He hadn't got a text demanding his presence or a phone call from a disgruntled Esme, heaven help her, asking him to remove his ruffian lessers from her property. The water looked like liquid ecstasy and the only thing keeping him from jumping in was that niggling feeling that hadn't left him since the day he'd taken over for Sam.
He smiled despite himself when he thought back to the beginning of their torturous trade off, the one up he'd gained unintentionally, rather, unknowingly. He couldn't say with a straight face that if he'd had all the info he'd have changed his mind. Leah was infectious on a good day and that wasn't taking into consideration those friggin' hormones that came around every so often, just to remind him that he was at her complete and unyielding mercy. Maybe he'd have gone about it differently, a little more carefully, but he seriously doubted the outcome would have been different. Of course she was still infuriating and sometimes, every so often, she'd push him to that place he'd been when he retracted the claim. A place where he just couldn't fathom why he wanted her, why he put up with her. She wouldn't apologize until she realized just how serious he was and he wanted to cheer for himself when he was able to remember that look she'd get when she'd find him a few days later, scrunched and annoyed and sorry. Her apologies were bullshit most of the time, him having to do most of the talking, but they sufficed once she pulled out all those blasted weapons he so despised when he was looking for an actual note of sincerity.
He hated the physicality of a relationship now. He hated the wordless apologies and all those things she still couldn't say to him. He wasn't sure what was going through her mind when she said he didn't understand, when she said that he could never understand because he wasn't her and apparently that was supposed to mean something to him. It didn't, of course, because she sounded completely off her head during that particular argument. He'd told her that, too. And it'd been the first time he'd noticed something off about her. She'd flipped her shit more than usual and then he smelled it when she stormed by. He knew she was pregnant two weeks before she did.
"Is there any specific reason you're out here all sulky-like? Or are you just being anti-social?"
His solace came to a screeching halt when he heard her voice, but his mind stayed firmly planted in everything that's lead them up to this point. He had to admit, he always got a little crazy around this time. When her 'cycle' should have taken place, but was always held back by, well him, he supposed.
"Anti-social," he conceded quietly.
She raised a brow. "And do I fall into this anti category or am I allowed?"
"Just give me a minute, alright?"
He heard her sigh, shift a little behind him, and he made a point not to look at her. If he looked then he'd falter and he really didn't feel like being that guy today. Call it stress or wariness or exhaustion, it didn't really matter. They both knew he had plenty of reason to be frustrated, maybe even a little bitter, and he couldn't help the resentment that flared when he thought of the date and how close they were to being parents and how long they'd actually been doing this dance. Their children, their triplets, would enter this world with absolutely no security. How could they, when he himself wasn't secure? He didn't know if Leah would fall into one of her funks and kick him out or if he'd be the one kicking her out because she'd gone too far this time. It was always too far, though, if he was being honest. The things she said to him and the things he said to her… they were just wrong. It was all wrong. They were meant to be together, he knew that. He could feel it in every inch of himself when they were near each other. His wolf had accepted it three years ago when he'd found her in the woods, and he'd followed closely behind when she'd sought him out in the midst of another heat and he'd reinstated it. Nobody had objected this time. Not even Sam. Everyone knew it…. Everyone but her, apparently.
He could still feel her there, watching him, and he wondered just what it was stuck in her throat this time. Was it a simple, are you okay? Or maybe something a little more complex like, I'm sorry for being such a twat this morning? He supposed it didn't really matter, he would never hear it. She'd stand there until he turned and caved and reassured her with everything she wanted to hear and pretended that he was absolutely fine with how things were going. He'd done as she asked him that night, reclaimed her as his, with promises of change and effort and an equality of sorts once things simmered down and they settled into a routine. And settle they did. Sue moved in with Old Quil out of convenience, he begrudgingly moved into the Clearwater home, and everything after that had been such a fucking blur he couldn't honestly remember if he'd ever tried to reinforce anything from their agreement. Had he ever voiced his discontent with the situation? Ah, fuck it, of course he had. There was no denying the blatant evading and the continuous distraction she tried to play on him. He'd fight it at first, just as he was doing now, and then she'd get upset or she'd get flustered with words she just couldn't get out and he'd, like an idiot, feel sorry for her and forget. Maybe it had seemed like the best solution at the time, while they were new and unstable and still working through their discomfort with the situation despite their feelings. But now it was just frustrating. Maddening, really.
He thought of that night, of how perfectly beautiful it had all seemed. A halo of hair fanning across his bed sheets, her fingers tracing every inch of him, memorizing him, loving him. He'd never forget her eyes. They were molten and open and everything she was feeling had been so vividly clear to him. Every kiss had been weighted with promise, every stroke had been laden with feeling and pleasure and trust. They had been so completely whole he'd thought it impossible to ever separate himself from her. The days had melted together and, before either had realized, a week had passed. An entire week. And she'd been his, only his, for the entirety of every second, every minute, every hour, every day. They didn't even eat until the eighth day, when their bodies just couldn't take it anymore. Even then, the days following, had been blissful. She'd been serene and so bright with his love, with love for him, and it had chased all his doubts away. Wrongfully so, he quickly learned, as soon as their first fight came about. It had been moving, he recalled. He didn't want to move into her mother's house, he wanted to get a place for them, away from the immediate vicinity of their families, of their past. But that was too much commitment, it would seem, and it was only then that realization dawned on him.
That had been the first year. They'd agreed that there was no rushing her acceptance of his claim, that it didn't matter because they both knew how she felt. She failed to understand that two additional years was a long time to wait, and when the words began to fail her again, the physicality just wasn't enough. I love you had never seemed like such a heavy statement until he was the only one saying it, and hadn't been on the receiving end of it in god knows how long. Asking her always led to the same inevitable response; You know how I feel. And when that eventually quit satisfying him, he was tired of sounding like a whiney bitch and just stopped initiating personal conversations altogether. He stopped initiating anything that even resembled feeling, and he knew it hurt her, that it was still hurting her. But he couldn't bring himself to be that anymore. To be the sap and the only one that seemed interested in the romantic part of a relationship. That had never been him. Even if he'd wanted it to be. He wanted to feel secure, just like everyone else, just like her. And being denied something so simple from someone who 'loved' him was like a knife being dragged carelessly through his heart. Every dismissal of his trying to cuddle and nuzzle and all those other mushy things his friends would have laughed at him for doing was a slap to the face. Every time he let those three words slip and was comforted only by silence afterward was a kick to the gut. It was physically exhausting to be the only one that gave a shit. Emotionally damning. And his strength was wavering. Noticeably.
The only thing he had left to grasp at were the three cubs she was carrying.
"Seriously, Jake, everyone is waiting…"
Something about the impatience in her voice pissed him off. Surprisingly so. "I don't give a shit," he stated cooly, his face morphing to indifference as she moved to his side. He turned to her, gave her a brief once over, turned back to face the water.
He could feel her confusion and he hated it.
"It's our barbecue, Jacob. It's kinda our job to be there to-"
"I have too many jobs as it is," he broke in, frowning. "I don't need, nor did I ask, for another one."
Her eyes were wide with suppressed irritation, her wavering patience clear in her balled fists. "I told you about this like a week ago! If you didn't want to do it you should have said something."
"Would there have been a point to my objecting?" he asked flippantly, rolling his eyes at her immediate, predictable reaction. "You would have done it anyway. This isn't my house, remember?"
Their argument from earlier came flooding back to her and surprise registered on her face for the smallest of moments. Her features were schooled before she spoke again. "Are you still -"
"Don't chastise me for being upset about something we both know has been bothering me for a long time now," he interrupted her again, his frown deepening to an unflattering point. "And don't pretend like it's nothing, Leah. You using something like that against me is just…. Just.. -"
She waited with a surprising amount of anxiety for what he was about to say, not able to remember a time when he looked this serious. It wasn't that he was yelling or screaming or throwing things and spewing curses at her. He wasn't. And that was all wrong.
What was even more unnerving was his inability to finish his sentence, shaking his head and obviously dismissing the subject before they actually broached it. She was tempted to leave it, to continue pushing him to go inside and do something about Paul and Quil's incessant arguing. But there was something to the slump in his shoulders, something deep and disturbing about his frown, something that made her want to reach out and touch him; just to be sure she still could. It was unsettling, the way he refused to meet her eyes. She knew she should do something, say something. That's been their main problem all along, right? Her inability to voice certain things. Thousands of words prodded at the back of her lips, hundreds of different phrases and questions she could have, should have, said or asked. They all would have been fine, more than fine, probably. Because it was initiative, and he would have appreciated it.
But as soon as her mouth opened, she felt that familiar pang of defensiveness creeping through her veins, burning her from the inside out. There were a thousand different reasons why she should have tried to fix this, but all that registered was the one reason she couldn't.
"Why are you being so damn moody, Black?"
And that had been it. Whatever reasoning he had for the anger he felt toward her, for the way he bristled every time she came near him, for the need to just get away from her dissipated into a giant pile of dust, and he made no attempt to stop it. He slid off the wooden fence he'd been on, turned to face her with a strange sort of determination, a look that truly made her nervous despite her best efforts not to be. His shoulders squared and his face was a vision of stone, his entirety no longer wavering in her presence.
"So we're back to last name's now, Clearwater?" he spat harshly, paying no mind to her flinch. "I figured it'd happen eventually, though I'm surprised you've lasted this long."
She couldn't quite put her finger on it; why she felt so damn jittery. Like she was missing something and he was acting on it while she was left in this odd limbo, trying to keep up with his uncharacteristic tone. It didn't make sense to her, but he looked as if he'd been coiled, ready to release at any second.
She let a slow breath out through barely parted lips, subconsciously ran a hand over her very swollen stomach. "I didn't.. it was an -"
"Accident," he finished, rolling his eyes. "Yeah. Heard it before. Try something else. Something new."
Her eyes widened slightly, her head recoiled slightly. "What is your problem?"
"Nothing," he drawled, enunciating every syllable with a dramatic display of hand motions. "Why in the world would you think there was anything wrong, Leah? Christ as if I have anything to be angry about…"
She huffed, shifted to her other hip impatiently. "Honestly, Jacob, this is ridiculous! I was irritated this morning! I didn't feel like dealing with anything and you just kept-"
"-pushing," he stated with a frown. "God forbid I want something more than a two word answer when something is fucking with my head! How can you stand there and act like I'm being unreasonable? Like I have no reason in the world to be acting this way?"
Her frown matched his, her traitorous eyes beginning to water a bit. "You said you were happy," she challenged. "When I asked you last week, why you were being so distant and, well, fucking closed off, you said you were fine. That you were happy."
"I LIED!" He bellowed, taking a step forward. "I fucking lied, Leah! I've lied to you over and over and over again. I've surprised myself with how many lies I could actually come up with!" He paused, ran a hand down his face. "And you never once thought to question it."
He gave her a knowing look, tilting his head slightly as if addressing a child. "You knew, Lee. Don't play dumb," his lip curled a little, mind whirling around all their arguments, "it doesn't suit you in the slightest."
And then there was the hurt. She narrowed her eyes, forcing out one of those fucking tears they both despised, and he could feel his insides light up, scorching every inch of him. "You are being a fucking-"
"Ass hole?" he offered. "A prick? A douche bag? A bitch?" he rolled his eyes, his lids heavy and his face almost forlorn. "I've heard it all before."
She felt that friggin' anxiety shit reaching a peak, making her breaths come in strange rasps and her palms were sweating against her angry fingertips. "What the hell do you want me to say, Jacob? I don't even know what you're going on about so how can I defend myself-"
"There!" he half-yelled, pointed a finger as if he'd struck gold. "That is why you and me," pointer finger moved between them quickly "you and I will never be happy."
He scoffed at her pained expression. "Guess that got your attention, huh?" Leah took a step back, he didn't try and stop her. "When was the last time you told me you loved me?"
She rolled her eyes, a snarky retort inches from leaving her lips.
"Don't," his hand was up, halting her. "I lost fuckin' count of the days, that's how long. When was the last time we agreed on anything? When I didn't get blindsided by something you claimed to have planned with me? When we went out a friggin' date!"
She was fidgeting, uncomfortable with the conversation but unable to find an escape. He looked so upset….so damn hurt.
"When I claimed you-"
"Oh my god, Jacob!" she groaned. "I don't want to talk about that right now! I thought we-"
"Well we didn't. Now shut up and let me talk because I've spent the last three years listening to your silence… I think I deserve that much, don't you?"
Her defenses were begging her to yell at him, to tell him to shut up and drop that fucking subject she hated so much. But there was a part of her, the part that wanted to remember that night, wanted to remember how perfect everything had been for that short period of time, before she went and fucked it all up again. She'd been surprised that he stayed after the first time when he so quickly retracted his ties to her. Then again, she'd been a little more subtle about it the second time around. Learning from her own mistakes and weaving around things more so than hitting him with them head on. She tried. Really, she had. But the doubt wouldn't leave her, and her defense fed off the doubt. It was a stupid cycle, really, when she considered Jacob and everything he'd put up with after round two of their heat-induced sex fest. When she considered him and the time he'd put in, the millions of things he'd done to earn her trust, to earn her love. And she loved him. More than words could ever describe even if she was able to open that friggin' mouth of hers.
"Yes," she breathed in a rare moment of submission. "Yes, you do… but I still don't understand-"
"Let me talk," he ground out. "And then I'm sure you'll understand perfectly."
He put some distance between them, letting his shoulder thump against a large tree trunk, his eyes still roving intensely over her face. "I'm tired of pretending," he began slowly, his hand back up in the air when he saw her mouth open slightly, stopping her. "I'm tired of being the only one who cares. Of you acting as if everything's fine and dandy when you know it's not…" He took a breath, steeled himself. "Why haven't you finished it?"
She shook her head. "I don't-"
"The claim, Leah."
She concentrated on how his eyes closed when he spoke, on how his irritation was so obviously simmering just below the forced patience. It was almost foreign, how exasperated he seemed to be with her. She felt her chest constrict with thoughts of what was coming next, of what he was inevitably going to say.
"I.. I don't…" she could feel herself flustering, getting pissed off at how hard it was to answer him.
He apparently wasn't in the mood for it.
"Forget it," he bit out in her silence, pushing himself from the tree. "Forget I ever said anything. Forget and pretend and tell yourself that I'll get over it." He watched her flinch, watched her eyes and her nose and her mouth scrunch and pucker with suppressed hurt. Now she knew how he felt. "But I'm telling you now," he warned her quietly, his nose inches away from her face now. "I'm done. I'm not playing this game anymore."
It smacked her in the gut and refused to let words save her.
"I'm done with never knowing, with feeling like I've imagined every single time you've ever told me you loved me. I'm done feeling like nothing's ever good enough."
He sounded too desperate now, she could hear all the built up hurt and neglect and it made her insides churn. It made her feel fucking guilty. "You know how I feel about you," she said weakly, hating the way his face fell into that half broken shade of grey.
He was going to give up. It was all there, taunting her in the way his mouth twitched into an exasperated half-smile, the way his eyes fell to the ground, the way his fingers loosened from balled fists. She wanted him to keep fighting, even if he was pushing her, because if they were fighting, he couldn't leave. That's what it's been about all along, right?
Dark eyes lifted one more time, tension the only thing keeping him moving forward and away from the tree. She swallowed a thick glob of regret and took a good, long look at his chest.
"I'm going inside now. . -"
"Jacob we're not finished."
His eyes closed and if she interrupted him again, he was fully prepared to walk away without another word. She seemed to catch on in the silence. "I'm going inside and I'm going to eat. I'm going to spend the rest of my night pretending like this conversation never happened. . . . And then I'm going to get my pillow and I'm going to sleep. On the couch. Away from you."
He'd done it. Exactly what he'd been trying to avoid when initiating this conversation. Inevitable as it may have been, this isn't what he wanted. It was physically painful to move past her, emotionally torturous hearing her crying in the same spot he'd left her in, psychologically damaging to open the back door and plaster the fakest smile he's ever managed when Seth and Paul and Embry greet him with more enthusiasm than he deserves. The food felt like acid going down his throat when she walked through the door and went on about her business, joking and playing around with her mother and his father. Both who were so blissfully unaware of what was to come.
He envied them that.
He envied them the conversations they had with her and the friendly, playful demeanor she always showed to them. He envied her brother in the way he always pulled a smile out of her, no matter what. He envied Embry in the way she always sought him out when she needed someone to talk to. He envied Paul in the way she never lacked fire to throw back in his face when he asked for it. It was sad, the way he wished he could be anyone else. The way he still, after everything that had happened, wished she would - could - love him the way she seemed to love them. The way she felt comfortable enough to tell them. Sometimes he even envied Sam. Yeah, they aren't even on speaking terms now. But the time he had with her had to have been like Heaven. That little taste Jacob had been given, Sam got to experience for over a year. Nothing in the way. Nothing stopping them.
His stomach turned when Sue and Old Quil and Billy headed to the door.
"See you guys soon," Sue said sweetly. "Take care of my babies, Jacob."
Her smile tore a hole in his defenses.
It was almost time.
"Alright, so I got patrols tomorrow, right?"
Jacob nodded at Paul, willing him not to leave.
"See ya round."
The door closing nearly shattered his mindset.
"I'd stay, Jake, but you did order me to the Cullen's tonight."
Embry's back set his heart to shattering his ribcage.
And then there was Seth. The last thing standing between him and a decision he really never wanted to make. Leah's mask had taken quite a hit, it seemed, when she realized what Jacob had been preparing himself for all night. Her eyes, bright and gleeful only moments before, had dimmed noticeably. He didn't miss the way her hands were clasped in her lap, rigid and so tense he was sure she'd smack Seth at any second, just to get rid of some of it. When he announced his departure, when he made the short walk to the door, when he'd been gone for less than twenty seconds, just long enough to be out of earshot, Jacob stood up and left the room.
Being in their room was like being tied down and set on fire. Everything reminded him of something. He grasped at some of the good memories, just to be sure he could, and regretted it almost instantly. Pictures, clothes, jewelry, even the chair made him want to smash it into a million pieces. He snatched his pillow and practically ran down the stairs, only to find her still sitting on the couch, looking at the TV like it was going to attack her at any second. It'd have been less unnerving if it were on.
"You're really sleeping on the couch?"
Her voice sounded so small. Like something was choking her and she was fighting just to breathe. He felt like rolling his eyes. And probably would have if he hadn't seen the shimmer in her eyes, the attempt to hide it behind eyelashes and hair.
"I told you, Leah," he said, and sounded a lot stronger than he felt. "I'm done playing this game. It either is or it isn't, I'm not living in between anymore."
He swore he saw her lip quiver, and doubt started wriggling its way into his head.
"I don't know what you want," she nearly whispered. "How can I fix it when I don't know how?"
He wanted to run. Run like hell and never look back because whatever she was playing at, it was working. Guilt and uncertainty were tugging at his eyeballs and his tongue felt like someone had taken a wrench to it and clamped it down, making damn sure he wouldn't say anything incriminating.
"You do know, Leah. You know exactly what's wrong. You know what I want and you know exactly what you have to do to start fixing it. You've known for three years. You just don't want to….. And that's the problem."
He watched her stand, watched her move across the room, watched her fight back the tears. "Goodnight, Jacob."
He'd thought it was painful to walk away from her before.. . . . Only because he didn't know what it would feel like for her to walk away from him.
He left his pillow in the middle of the living room floor, and the back door wide open when he left.
a/n. DON'T SAY IT! I know I suck.
Anyway, I know you're like wtf? This fic was so NOT angst-like before and now I heaped a whole chapter of it. But this is just what I came up with. Who really wants a simple ending with a simple resolution? See. Nobody. *Ducks away from glares*
So, as you can tell, I've got another chapter coming. I couldn't get this into one.
Hopefully I'll have it out quicker than 6 months. Seriously. It'd be nice.
I hope you all enjoyed it, as strange and random as it was. =) Reviews would REALLY make me happy.