A/N: This was written for the livejournal community The Air The Sun's Trading Yesterday Fanfiction Challenge and it took second place!
This is also probably the strangest thing I've ever written. Enjoy, and please review!
There was snow at her feet and it made soft crunching sounds as she wandered around the graveyard. Finally she stopped, not caring that the cold and bitter January wind cut through her black sweater. She stared down at her hands crossed over her chest, trying to work up the nerve to look at him. To look at what marked him.
She was too numb to even cry, for the moment at least.
She stood there for what felt like a long and miserable lifetime. When she did look up at him her breathing became more erratic like it always did before she cried. She didn't even feel the teardrops running down her cheeks. She had shed so many already—what was a couple more?
Someone called out her name. She didn't care.
He was right there, right in front of her. But he was never coming back. It was all her fault.
"No Jake, not here," Bella Swan scolded as she pushed at her boyfriend. He pulled his face away from her neck and pouted. "But Bells, it's my birthday!"
She smirked. "I know."
He bent down to kiss her neck again when she moved her body away, placing a foot of space between them. "But seriously, not here. It's inappropriate."
Jacob Black huffed and crossed his arms over his broad chest. "Oh come on, everyone thinks it's cute. Also, did I mention it's my birthday? Now everything we do in my bedroom when Billy isn't home is legal."
"Jacob!" Bella hissed, glancing around frantically to make sure no one had overheard. Not that people weren't already aware that they were in love—and what did the majority of teens do when they were in love?—but still. It was only a little embarrassing. Especially since the members of the Pack already knew all of the…details. She didn't really want strangers hearing all about it as well. "Jacob," Bella began again, "this is not the appropriate venue for this discussion."
He grinned down at her playfully. "It's a grocery store Bells, not a church. But whatever, we can talk all we want at dinner tonight. Which you aren't cooking." He looked down at her half full grocery cart pointedly.
"It's your birthday dinner Jake," Bella said as she tossed a loaf of bread into the cart. "I want it to be special."
Jacob frowned. "No Bella, you're always cooking for me, my dad and Charlie. I want you to have a break, for my birthday."
Bella raised an eyebrow. "For your birthday. Really?"
He smiled. "Really really, Bells. The Lodge sounds nice actually. You're dad is always talking about how much he likes it."
Bella resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Fine. The Lodge it is then. I still would rather just make you a nice dinner."
Jacob shrugged his shoulders as he started to pick random items off the shelves and throw them into the cart. This was normally why Bella didn't take Jacob grocery shopping with her.
"I know you would Bells, but the Pack party is tomorrow night and Emily already said she needs your help making the meal." He looked up and caught her eye. "I just want this night to be about us." He reached out and grabbed her wrist before gently tugging her next to him. He reached out with his other hand and tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear. "Is that so much to ask for a birthday present?"
Bella sighed and gave in. "Okay Jake. I understand. By the way, you're totally getting something else from me that has nothing to do with this dinner or," she quickly glanced around to make sure no one was around them, "our… you know."
He grinned. "Alright honey, sounds good." He kissed her forehead and pulled away from her. "I'm going to run next door to the hardware store. I'll be back in fifteen minutes, give or take. You good here without me?"
Bella eyed the ever growing pile of food in her cart. "I'll be just fine."
She relaxed when she saw him leave the store. Now it would be easier to buy and hide his present. She quickly pushed her cart over to the electronic part of the store and immediately found what she was looking for on full display.
Jacob Black needed a cell phone. Badly.
After finding one that looked like it could handle a few bumps and falls, Bella asked the attendant for information regarding a phone plan. After a few moments of negotiating, Bella tucked the new cell phone under her purse so that Jacob wouldn't see it when he came back. Really, she was kicking herself for not buying it earlier, but her funds had been tight. She was twenty years old and had a part time job at the hardware store next door, the one that the Newton's owned. But her paycheck didn't put a dent in her school fees. She might have been attending the community college that was a solid forty five minute drive out of town, but it was still college and therefore expensive.
She picked up her purse and looked back down at the phone. She was still getting by, however.
Getting Jacob something that he so desperately needed in this day and age made her happy. Now she could text him at night when she couldn't sleep, and updates on his weekly rounds around La Push with the Pack would also come a lot quicker. She sighed. This was as much a gift to her as it was to him. Oh well.
As she made her way to the front of the store she passed the liquor section. Her stomach spun with both pleasant and unpleasant memories. The first night she had even gotten drunk was the night that Victoria was killed. She had been staying with Emily when Seth had burst through the front door announcing that Paul and Sam had ripped the revenge bent redhead apart. Jacob, apparently, had been distracting her in human form. He had been taunting her about Bella, about how she would never even think about Bella again if he had anything to say about it. When Victoria had posed herself to attack the human man who thought he could pull one over on her, Paul and Sam charged at her from both sides and tore her open.
Bella threw up twice that night. The first time was after Seth told her and Emily what happened. The thought of Jacob putting himself in direct danger for her made her physically ill. She had only barely made it to the trashcan. The second time was hours later, after the Pack had shown up with cases of beer and a couple of bottles of tequila. They were celebrating. Bella had let herself go with a sense of finality. All of the vampires she had ever known were officially out of her life. That night she finally passed First Base with Jacob, and thirty minutes later he held her hair as she threw up everything she had had to drink.
Everything after that seemed to happen naturally. She and Jacob just seemed to fit. And that was really all they both needed.
Bella furrowed her eyebrows at the liquor before sighing and turning away. She still had nine months to go. Now that was going to be a fun birthday.
It was in the check-out line that she saw him.
Her whole body seemed to freeze up as she stared at him. Pain that she hadn't felt in a long time, pain that she thought Jacob had erased, erupted in her chest. She couldn't pull her eyes away from him because there was no way, there was just no way it was him.
He was in front of her in the check-out line, and in his profile she could see the smooth skin, the bronze shock of hair, and the side of his face that she could see was the same.
The eyes were a light brown, lighter then she remembered them, but her memory had failed her in the past. She opened her mouth to speak, to say something to this boy who had just left her when—
He grabbed a bag of potato chips, opened them and popped a couple of them into his mouth. Bella snapped her mouth shut, her accusation dying on her lips. When he looked up and looked her straight in the eye Bella realized that there was something off about this man's face. Where Edward's had been immaculate, this face before her was almost the same, but only almost.
He cleared his throat, effectively pulling Bella out of her full on stare. He offered her the bag of chips. "You want one or something?"
Bella felt her stomach reel. He even sounded like him.
"Can I ask you a question?" she said softly.
He only blinked at her. He didn't even seem surprised. "Sure."
"Do you know anyone with the last name Cullen—"
A warm arm wrapped itself around her waist, distracting her. She looked up to see Jacob standing next to her and grinning down at her.
"So Newton's didn't have what I needed, but I figured I could find the tool I'm looking for online—" His whole body stiffened beside her. He was openly staring wide eyed at the man in front of Bella in the check-out line. He was openly staring at the lookalike.
The guy paused mid chip to raise his eyebrows at both of them. He opened his mouth to say something when the person in front of him finished purchasing their items. When he turned to talk to the cashier Bella whirled around and faced Jacob.
"Did you see—
"Yes Bella," Jacob snapped through gritted teeth, "I saw."
"Is he a—"Bella could barely bring herself to say it. "Is he a vam—"
"No." Jacob stated. "He isn't." As he continued to glare daggers into the lookalike's back, he stepped away from Bella. "I have to go."
"I have to go," Jacob said again. He turned and gave Bella a hard look. "Stay away from him."
She bristled at the command. "We don't even know him."
Jacob's expression softened and he sighed. "Call it an instinct," he said, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "Bells, just trust me." He leaned forward and gave her a quick peck on the cheek and then he was out the door.
By the time Bella turned toward the lookalike with every intention of looking him over again, he was gone too.
Jacob's cell phone sat on top of her desk, wrapped in plain blue paper. She had even put a little bow on top of it to make it festive.
The paper cut ran along her pointer finger, and, wincing, she ran another finger over it. It had happened only a moment ago and barely any blood had seeped out of the tiny little wound, and yet the sting of it brought on an onslaught of memories, memories that she had been fighting off for years to no avail. There was something very odd about what had happened at the grocery store, but Bella couldn't put a finger on what the issue was, exactly.
She was happy with Jacob. She knew that. But yet, seeing something so close to his face today had reminded her of darker days from her past, when becoming a monster had seemed like the most appealing option for her life. It had been a selfish desire back then, and it was no less selfish now. But here she sat on the edge of her bed, wondering what her life might have been like if she hadn't gotten a paper cut on her 18th birthday.
It would have been very different.
She had yet to decide if that 'different' was good or bad.
Glancing at the clock on her night stand, Bella realized she only had an hour before she was supposed to leave for The Lodge. She pulled a face; The Lodge had never been her favorite place to eat.
After pulling on some dressier clothes and gathering up her purse and Jacob's gift, she found herself glancing back down at her paper cut. The memories were coming as they pleased now, even if she didn't want to remember them. With a sigh she wrenched open her bedside table, grabbed a band-aid and stuck it over the cut.
Now that she couldn't see it, maybe the memories of 'what if' would leave her alone.
Jacob was late, oh so very late.
It was starting to become embarrassing. The waiter was giving her looks of pity every time he walked by to refill her glass of water or ask if she wanted him to bring her some dinner rolls. If she hadn't felt so irritated (and, admittedly, kind of rejected) about the whole situation she would have asked him to mind his own business and left, instead of sitting there and waiting for Jacob. She just knew the waiter was whispering to the hostess about her, just knew it.
She glanced at her phone to check the time. She had been there for over an hour. It was unlike Jacob to be this late for anything and worry started to creep its way into Bella's stomach. She rubbed her fingertip along the condensation against the side of her water glass to try and calm herself, but Bella still found her thoughts drifting to wherever Jacob might be. If only she had thought to give him a cell phone for his last birthday.
Bella supposed it was just a part of her natural genetic make-up to worry endlessly about things that were beyond her control. She knew that wherever Jacob was now he was probably doing something really important. He wouldn't knowingly leave her hanging like this. But still, what if something had happened? What if the lookalike they had both seen at the store had been no coincidence? What if—
Her thoughts were interrupted when a warm hand brushed her shoulder. She jerked her head up only to see the lookalike himself sitting down at the table that was next to hers. She froze, her eyes never leaving his face. It might not have been exactly the same, but it was still so close to the perfect face she saw in her dreams that it was astonishing. His eyes looked her over before he gave her a nod of acknowledgement. Bella forced herself to look away as he began to look over the menu.
She tucked her hands underneath her thighs in an attempt to keep them from shaking. A part of her wished Jacob would hurry up and get here. Another part of her wanted to turn back to this total stranger and drill him on whether or not he knew the Cullen's. On whether or not he knew Edward.
The lookalike started to whistle. Bella quickly bit her lip to stifle her gasp. She recognized that soft and slow tune. It was 'Clair de Lune'. She turned her head in order to give him a full on stare. There was no way this was a coincidence.
As if feeling her eyes on her, the lookalike turned around to look her in the eye. He offered up a half-smile, the same one that had been her favorite, before standing up and walking out of the restaurant. Bella stood up so fast she knocked over her chair and in her haste to grab her purse she knocked over her glass of water as well.
Her breathing was frantic as she rushed to the front of the restaurant. Her hands curled into fists at her sides. She didn't just want Jacob to be there, she needed Jacob to be there. He was her calming presence and he would know what to do.
But morbid curiosity won out, and feeling a sense of foolish recklessness and a complete lack of self awareness that she hadn't felt since she had been seventeen years old, she followed the lookalike out into the night.
The fluorescent lights were bright in the parking lot. She found him easily. He was leaning up against a car, presumably his, smoking a cigarette.
"Who—," Bella started, then faltered as his gaze swiveled to her. It was so like his that she had to check herself before she spoke again. "Who are you?"
He grinned at her, but it was not friendly. "I'm Edward Cullen."
A wave of nausea rolled over Bella and she had to physically force herself not to be sick in front of him. "No you're not," she stated. But she sounded unsure, even to herself.
He shrugged noncommittally. "Guess not, but I think it's safe to assume, with the way you've been staring at me, that you wish I was."
Bella slowly shook her head. "He left me, why would I want him back here?"
He flicked his cigarette onto the ground before shoving himself away from the car and taking a step towards her. "How the hell should I know? Aren't you in a happy relationship? Why would you waste your time obsessing over something that could never be?"
Bella balked at the accusation and decided that self defense was the way to go. "I-It's only natural to think about what could have been."
"It's been years."
"Why do you look so much like him?" she asked, trying for a different tactic.
He took a couple of steps closer to her; Bella wasn't sure why she couldn't find it in herself to back away from him. "I'm The Lookalike," he whispered. "I show you your greatest mistake."
"But Edward wasn't a mistake!" She was too absorbed in what she was saying to catch the look of sadness that flashed across his face. "We just happened—"
Jacob stepped in-between her and The Lookalike, blocking her view of him.
"Bella, get behind me please."
She took notice of the way his hands and knees were shaking, and Bella wondered what kind of danger The Lookalike threatened that was causing Jacob to be on the edge of his control.
The Lookalike smirked. "You and your Pack have been searching for me. It's been pretty hard to continuously evade you all day. I'm not nearly as fast as a vampire."
"What are you?" Jacob growled.
"I hate repeating myself," The Lookalike said with a roll of his eyes. "But I'll do it just for you." He winked. "I'm The Lookalike, I show people, more specifically her, their greatest mistakes."
Jacob turned his head towards her and gave her a confused look. "What is he talking about?"
Bella shook her head. "I…I don't know."
The Lookalike's features twisted up in an expression of fury. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. Tell me, why is it that you continue, after all this time, to dwell on something that you'll never have? Why can't you be happy with what you've been given? People die for this," he gestured to her and Jacob. "They ache for it. They squander their lives away searching for it. And here it's been handed over to you; it's been made so easy for you it makes me sick. And yet you mourn over someone who was unnatural, over something that can never be. That should never exist." He narrowed his eyes at her as his hand reached inside his jacket. "Tell me Bella Swan, do you understand now?"
His golden eyes flashed and suddenly he wasn't just a lookalike anymore, he was Edward, down to the curve of his lips and they way his hair fell into his eyes. She was so overcome by a feeling of longing that she didn't realize that she was inadvertently staring down the barrel of a gun.
Her eyes took in the weapon for a moment before they flicked back up to his face. It was perfection. The owner of that face would never hurt her. He hadn't then, he wouldn't now. She didn't understand. Why would he point that at her?
Jacob was blurred from the vibrations of his insisting phase. But he stayed human, and when the gun fired it was Jacob who took the bullet that was meant for her.
Because Bella hadn't understood.
It was all her fault, all all all her fault.
She continued to stare listlessly at Jacob's headstone, reliving her moment of utter stupidity and selfishness again and again. Jacob took the bullet for her. Jacob had always taken the bullets for her. He had put her back together, he didn't give up on her when she let him hold her hand but wouldn't let him kiss her, when she claimed over and over that he would never be able to fix her up even though her heart was already being pulled in his direction, when he stood between her and Victoria, when he would hold her the nights that she would cry over nothing at all.
He had always taken the bullets for her until it killed him.
All Bella could do was stand there and feel a burning hate for no one but herself.
"Such a pity," came a soft voice. Bella's head jerked up and caught the eyes of The Lookalike some five feet away. He didn't look so much like Edward today. It was as if he no longer had a reason too.
Bella lacked the energy to tackle him into the ground and strangle him. It was a violent desire that soared through her. She realized that she was wrong about feeling hate for no one but herself.
"I hate you," she whispered, knowing he'd hear her regardless.
For a brief moment he looked pleased. "There's a start. I'm mildly surprised. I figured you'd be happy to see me. Now that Jacob isn't holding you back, don't you want to try and find—"
"No," she snapped, angry tears starting to trail from her eyes.
"No?" he taunted, "You mean—"
"Leave us alone!" she screamed. The Lookalike's features softened considerably. "Please," she croaked, "please just leave…" she trailed off into quiet sobs.
"He jumped in front of a gun to make sure you lived. He jumped in front of you, a girl who was so entranced by her biggest mistake that she couldn't even move herself out of the way."
Bella's breath caught in her throat and she could feel her body start to go into hysterics. "Ja—" she began, but the rest of his name was lost as she started to sob even harder than before.
"He loved you. You didn't deserve him."
Bella whipped her head up to look him in the eye. His eyes were blue now. "I…I know." She crossed her arms over her chest and bent her head back to the ground. "I know! I wish that he hadn't loved me, because then he would still be here. I wish that he had shown up fifteen minutes later then he had. I wish I hadn't been so blind. I wish I had let him kiss me in the grocery store. I wish I wouldn't have cried during those nights when he was next to me. I wish he hadn't gotten between me and Victoria. I wish Victoria had found me first because then Jake would be here. I wish I had never brought over those motorcycles for him to fix up. I wish I had never wanted to be a monster. I wish I had never sat next to Edward in biology class. I wish I had never moved to Forks." She paused, tears still running down her wind whipped cheeks. "I wish I had taken that bullet, because I deserved it."
And then she was back under the fluorescent lights of the Lodge's parking lot, staring down the barrel of a gun. Not even stopping to allow herself to feel the overwhelming sense of happiness at seeing Jacob standing next to her, even though he was screaming something at her with a terrified look on his face, she dashed forward. A second later she took the bullet that was meant for her, that she had deserved.
Because Bella now understood.
Heat brought her back into the waking world. His heat.
"So stupid, so stupid, so fucking stupid."
The hand that was gripping hers was trembling. She slowly opened her eyes and gazed at the hospital room around her. When she went to move her left arm she was granted with white hot pain.
"Oh my god, Bella? Bella honey, can you hear me?"
She found it in herself to nod and quickly felt lips suddenly covering her face. Jacob pulled away and then moved his hand to smooth her damp hair away from her face. She gazed up at him, brown eyes wide and confused. "Bella you're so stupid, so stupid. Why would you do that?"
She blinked. "What did I do?"
He started down at her incredulously. "You took a bullet for me, dumbass." Tears were gathering in his eyes and he blinked rapidly to try and clear them away. "Why would you do that Bells? I'm not worth it."
Bella frowned. Bits and pieces from her memory were starting to piece themselves together. A lookalike, a bullet, and a pair of eerily familiar golden eyes. She hadn't let those things stand between her and the only person who constantly saved her from herself. With her good arm she reached up and cupped Jacob's cheek with her right hand.
"Because you are worth it. I don't deserve you." She ran her thumb over his bottom lip and smiled. His dark eyes widened.
She let her hand fall back to her side. Her eyes were already growing heavy with the need of rest. Sleep tugged at her, and it was those dark eyes that followed her into her dreams.