A/N: This was written for yavie_namerie who took Third Place in the LiveJournal comminity The Air, The Sun's Banner Contest.
Enjoy and please review!
Even a wolf can get tired.
His breath came out in heavy heaves, his eyes darting around for a place to rest. Anywhere with leaves, anywhere that was dry, anywhere that he could close his eyes and forget about tomorrow.
God, the last thing he wanted to think about was tomorrow.
His paws made soft tracks into the earth, the Canadian woods surrounding him diming in the sunset. He had been running for hours. Occasionally his brothers would pop in and check on him, to see if he was okay, to see where he was.
They tried not to remind him of what was approaching.
But it was approaching, and nothing they could or couldn't think about would change that. She was getting married. That was that. He had to accept it, accept the fact that she was throwing her life away to marry a thing. His Bells was going to die, and she didn't even want to fight.
He finally collapsed onto the ground, his exhaustion not allowing him to move any further.
He hoped he fell asleep soon. He didn't want to think about how he had completely and utterly failed her.
You didn't fail her Jake—
Jacob shook his head. No no—Thoughts to myself, thoughts to myself, thoughts to myself. Breathe deeply. Think about running water. Think about Dad before Mom died. Think about Bella laughing.
Fur slipped back into skin, fangs withdrew, paws formed finger prints, and suddenly Jacob was a boy again.
Alone. Truly and absolutely alone. Jacob slept.
She sat across from him, stirring cream and sugar into her coffee cup. She had been silent for the past couple of hours.
"You're thinking of him, aren't you?" Jacob asked quietly. He was a perceptive person, but when it came to Bella he felt like he could read her mind sometimes. But then, he had made a point to memorize everything about her: the way her hair curled at the end, how she held her hands in her lap, the way her nose would wrinkle up when she laughed, the little gasps she'd make when he'd kiss her neck or run his fingers over the curve of her waist. He memorized it, and then packed it away into his memory.
Jacob had always liked putting together puzzles when he'd been a kid. He supposed that had transferred over into adulthood. In many ways, Bella was a puzzle. Everything she did had a motive, was merrily a piece to the big picture. She was the big picture, and he wanted to complete her. To put her back together after Cullen had shattered her.
He had just figured out the foundation to Bella's big picture—he'd found the corner pieces and was slowly but surely figuring out which piece fit where—when Cullen had come back again. Everything had crumbled. Cullen hadn't just come in and mixed up the pieces so Jacob would have to start over, he'd stolen pieces of Bella away in the intent that she could never be whole again.
Jacob would not stand for that. He'd fight and fight for Bella's missing pieces, and if that didn't work then he'd figure out how to create new ones.
He'd thought he'd been losing, he'd thought that Bella would pick the Thief over the Builder, but she didn't.
The Cullens' had left. Jacob did not ask questions. He merrily starting putting Bella back together again.
Her eyes flicked up to him guiltily before she looked back down at her coffee. "Sorry, Jake. Sometimes I have nightmares about him and they sorta stick with me." Her fingers traced over the little hand carven wolf on her bracelet. But the diamond heart was gone.
He didn't ask her where she had put it. Jacob Black was a patient man. He would wait until she told him herself.
"What did you want to do today Bells? See a movie? Go to the library?"
She gave him a smile and shook her head. "Do you think we could just go for a walk on the beach?"
He stood up and reached out for her hand.
Jacob Black didn't think he'd be nervous on his wedding day. After all, he was marrying the love of his life, the girl he had fought so hard to save. He stood there at the alter, waiting for her to walk down the aisle towards him. He'd been looking forward to this day for a long time, and now that it was here he felt like he was going to throw up. How pathetic.
Then he saw her, and all apprehension zoomed out the window. His Bells was beautiful. And not because she was wearing a fancy dress, and not because she was holding a bouquet of wild flowers, and not even because his ring was sitting on her ring finger.
It was because she was his Bells.
The shades were drawn and Bella sat in a dark room staring at the corner of the wall. Jacob had just gotten off the phone with Charlie, explaining what had happened.
Bella wouldn't move. She wouldn't speak. So Jacob simply sat down beside her on their living room couch, careful to only let his arm touch hers. He wanted her to know he was there, not overwhelm her.
He heard her inhale sharply, and he looked at her face to see tears gathering in her eyes. Her bottom lip trembled and her shoulders shook. She gasped and finally the tears spilled down her cheeks.
"I did something wrong. It's my fault." Her hand drifted over her stomach and balled into a fist. "I must have done something wrong. I know I did, I know—"
He cut her off by pulling her into his embrace. She fisted her hands into the fabric of his shirt and cried out into his chest. "I know I did, I know I did!"
His arms tightened around her, and he bent his head so that he was whispering in her ear. "No, honey, no. It's not your fault."
She let out a low wail, almost inhuman in its despair, as she clung even tighter to him. He felt hot tears prick in the corner of his eyes. "Bells, we'll get through this."
"I can't," she cried out. "Jake—I can't. All my fault, Jake."
He couldn't stand it. He felt the tears run down his cheeks, and he buried his face into her shoulder. "Bells," he choked out, "It's not your fault. We'll get through this, I swear to God we will. We'll try again. But don't give up on me Bells, please don't give up on me."
They cried, and after that they started trying to put each other back together.
They named her Nora.
She was a little devil, toddling all over the place and getting herself into trouble. She looked like her daddy, with black hair and dark skin. But she had her mother's eyes.
Jacob joked that she'd break hearts. Bella hoped she'd never get her heart broken.
They named him Andrew. He was a lot less rambunctious then his big sister, and was a quiet, serious child. He did have a natural curiosity, however, which occasionally got him into sticky situations.
His skin was lighter than his sister's, but his hair was as black as night. He inherited his father's soulful eyes.
If Jacob was Bella's sun, then Nora and Andrew were her two stars.
"Did you see Nora push that little boy into the mud?" Bella said before collapsing into giggles. "I bet she has a crush on him." She and Jacob were curled up in their bed. The kids were asleep, and they were finally having a moment to themselves.
"Nothing like your elementary school graduation to embarrass your peers," Jacob quipped with a grin. Bella snorted before succumbing to another fit of giggles. When she calmed down she snuggled up against his chest.
They laid there like that for a little while, enjoying each other's company.
"You never asked me what I did with Edward's diamond. You know, the one that was on my old bracelet."
"I just figured you'd tell me when you were ready. I wasn't sure if you'd kept it. And to be honest I didn't think I should have known. Who knows what I would have done to it."
"Well it wouldn't have mattered. I sold it."
He pushed away from her a little bit so that he could look into her face. "When?"
"When we first moved in together. I sold it, then donated all the money to charity."
He snorted before flipping over and pinning her underneath him.
Something was going on in Nora's love life. She was seventeen and suddenly she came home crying, filling the house with her teenage angst. Eventually Jacob got sick of it. Either his daughter was going to go back to her old, independent self, or he was going to break the boy that was doing this to her.
"Jake," Bella had said, "I think I understand what's going on with her. Let me handle it."
He had sucked in a deep breath, trying to hold back the Dad Instinct to Hunt Down And Destroy The Boy. Oh, he would terrify the poor idiot that was making his daughter so unhappy. But he settled down and let his wife do whatever it was that she had to do.
About a week later, Nora brought home that little boy that she had pushed in the mud. She was happy.
The kids had moved out. Bella sat next to him on their worn living room sofa. They were watching some crappy sitcom to pass the time.
Bella started laughing.
Jacob knew immediately it had nothing to do with whatever was on the television. "What's so funny?" he asked, a smile on his face.
"I just feel…really complete." She took his hand in hers and looked up at him. There were happy tears brimming in her eyes.
"Me too, Bells."
He woke up with a jerk.
It was all so vivid. Too vivid.
Sometimes dreams give you want you want but cannot have. They are cruel in their good intentions.
But Jacob knew that that had been so much more than a dream. It had been a view of what his future with Bella could have been like. A future that was slipping through his fingers as quickly as water slips down a drain.
She was restless. She wasn't all too sure how she was going to fall asleep tonight, considering what tomorrow would bring.
Oh God, the last thing she wanted to think about was tomorrow. She was too nervous. Too scared.
She rolled onto her side in an attempt to get comfortable. She shut her eyes. She thought calming thoughts.
Edward's immaculate face. How he made her heart skip beats. How his sweet breath made her dizzy, like she was high.
She took deep breaths and drifting further to sleep.
The last thing she thought about before she slipped under was Jacob's face when he was laughing really hard. It was so imperfectly perfect.
Her heart pounded against her chest. His hands circled around her back before they unhooked her bra. Naked skin met naked skin. The heat was sweltering. He trailed his fingers down through the valley of her breasts before circling her navel.
They moved together.
She swore he had ignited her. She was burning alive with his intensity, with his intimacy.
There was pain, like a rip and a tear.
Then the pain smoothed away into gasps and an arched back.
Then he was switching their positions, her body moving against his in a natural, primal rhythm.
Then her world shattered before putting itself back together again in a mess of screams and shudders.
Then, for the first time in a long time, she felt whole.
The night before her wedding to Jacob she giggled a lot.
"Are you nervous? Scared?" her mother had asked her.
She had sat there for quite some time, contemplating the answer. Finally, with all the confidence in the world, she shook her head.
"No. Not at all actually. Isn't that funny? Usually people are nervous. Jessica took half a valium before she got married. But, I don't know, I feel really excited. I'm ready for this."
Her mother had grinned at her before sweeping her up into a hug.
There was an overwhelming period of sadness. The dream blurred here, as if trying to shield the dreamer from something she was not ready to face yet.
She did feel loss. Devastating loss. She felt the pain of losing someone before she had gotten the chance to properly meet them.
But Bella did know one thing. Without Jacob she would have crumbled into nothing.
"Pregnancy looks good on you," Embry joked.
Bella gave him a strained smile. She was still feeling nervous.
"You're how far along now?" Embry went on to ask.
"Five months," she replied quietly. She hadn't made it this far the last time. Every day felt like a ticking time bomb. She was so terrified that something would go wrong, like last time.
A big, warm hand wrapped around hers and squeezed gently. "I'm right here, Bells," she heard Jacob whisper.
She gave him a genuine smile.
They named her Nora.
Oh, she was so beautiful. Bella was happy she looked like her father, even though Nora did have her mother's eyes. It was like having two suns in her life.
She had just finished changing her umpteenth diaper and it had been nearly 24 hours since she'd gotten a wink of sleep.
"So, ready for another one?" Jacob had joked.
Bella snorted. "Hardly."
They named him Andrew.
He looked more like Bella, which seemed to please Jacob.
Bella just couldn't believe her son had his father's soulful, expressive eyes. She smiled every time she saw them.
If Jacob was her sun, the Nora and Andrew were her two stars.
Nora was in hysterics when the family dog died. The seven year old cried and cried as Jacob dug the animal a grave. Five year old Andrew was inside with his Grandpa Billy.
They gave the dog a little funeral, each of them taking a moment to share a memory that they had had. After everyone had spoken their piece, Jacob gave Bella's shoulder a squeeze before nodding his head towards the house. "I'm going to go and talk to Andrew."
Nora stared down at the freshly marked grave, big tears falling out of her eyes. Bella kneeled down next to her before wrapping an arm around her shoulder.
"Scruffy is in a happier place now," she said soothingly to her daughter. The little girl looked up at her with big, chocolate brown eyes—Bella's eyes.
"Why did he have to die?" she sniffed.
Bella frowned, trying to think of a good way to answer her while still being honest. Her free hand drifted down to hover over her stomach. "Well sweetie, sometimes things happen to us that we wish wouldn't happen. Even if it's sad, everything happens for a reason."
Nora's bottom lip trembled and she hung her head.
Bella rubbed soothing circles into her daughter's back.
"We'll get through this."
She stood outside of her son's door, listening to Jacob tuck the seven year old in.
"But what if something comes out from under my bed and tries to get me?"
"Then I'll turn into a giant wolf and scare him off," Jacob answered smoothly.
Bella could almost see Andrew's eyes widen in wonder. "Whoa! Could you really do that?"
"Yeah, buddy. I sure could."
"Would you be even cooler and scarier then Batman?"
"Much cooler and scarier."
Bella put a hand over her mouth to suppress her laughter.
When Nora was seventeen, she started having boy troubles.
Jacob was ready to go into Dad Mode and hunt down whatever stupid boy was making his little girl so miserable, but one quiet word from Bella had him taking deep breaths and begrudgingly agreeing to let her handle it.
She entered her daughter's room.
Nora was perched on her window sill, gazing out at the setting sun. Bella let herself inside before closing the door behind her. She sat down on the bed and folded her hands into her lap.
"You wanna tell me what's going on?"
Nora shrugged. "Just some stuff at school."
Bella resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Did teenagers really think their parents were that dense?
"You're having boy problems," she stated simply.
Nora turned to look her mother in the eye. She looked surprised. "How did you know?"
Bella really did roll her eyes. "I was your age once too. I had to make some pretty big decisions when it came to boys."
Nora shook her head. "No offence Mom, but I don't think you could help me here."
A moment of silence stretched between them before Nora started talking. "Well, there's this boy, Stefan. He moved to town a few months ago, and we had to sit together in Calculus. He's really mysterious, and absolutely gorgeous. But, he can be sort of controlling, Like, he tells me what to do a lot and say it's because he wants to protect me. But, I mean, I like being protected, you know? He wants me to go off with him after we graduate. I think I've loved him since the first time I saw him."
"I see," was all Bella said, trying very hard not to narrow her eyes.
Nora sighed before continuing. "And then there's Matt."
Bella smirked. "Is that the boy you pushed into the mud during your elementary school graduation?"
Nora nodded and giggled. "Yeah. He's my best friend. We're always laughing and having a good time. I mean, we grew up together so he knows me better than anyone. He's gotten really cute too. He makes me happy. Sometimes I don't think he's even trying to. It's really easy to just be myself with him."
"Do you love him?"
Nora nodded. "Yeah. I don't think I love him as much as Stefan, though."
Bella stood up and cupped her daughter's cheek. "Sweetie, you're not in love with Stefan. You're in love with the idea of him. You're infatuated with him."
"But, the romance novels say—"
"The romance novels get it wrong most of the time. Pick Matt. You won't regret it."
Nora narrowed her eyes. "How do you know that?"
Bella smiled. "Because I don't regret picking my Matt. It's been as easy as breathing and as natural as sunlight."
She awoke slowly. She sat up, eyebrows furrowed as she tried to remember.
Something very important skirted around the edge of her mind. Remember. Remember.
But it slowly faded away. She hadn't been able to grasp it in time.
Bella loved Renesmee, but she was far from a normal child. She grew too quickly, and her mind worked like an adults'.
Death was something she would never have to understand because nobody in her perfect world would ever die.
She would never worry about monsters underneath her bed when she lived in a houseful of vampire and her Jacob could chase away anything that would ever threaten her.
She would never have to worry about her love life, because Jacob Black would become any person Renesmee wanted him to be, even if that person was not himself.
It happened suddenly.
Something was skirted around the edge of Bella's mind. She couldn't pinpoint this particular memory, which frustrated her. It was true that human memories could be blurry and hard to recall, but she had made sure to remember everything because she didn't want to forget.
This particular recollection was stubborn. She watched her daughter play with Jacob on the floor.
Then Renesmee turned her head towards Bella and caught her gaze. Bella stared into her own chocolate brown eyes.
Except, for a moment, another child stared back at her. A dark skinned little girl who looked just like her daddy, but she had Bella's eyes.
"Nora," she breathed. Then another name came to her. "Andrew."
It was like a dream within a dream, but this blurry haze was important. Bella knew this wasn't just a dream; it had been a vision of what her future would have been like, had she made different choices.
Jacob was staring at her, eyes wide. He stood quickly and walked out of the room.
In a flash Bella had followed him outside, but he was already gone.
"Nora…Andrew…Jacob," she said out loud to herself.
Bella wished she could cry. She could not.
The wolf barreled through the trees.
For a moment Bells burst through, that sweet, natural sensation that he had felt before everything became a constant repetition of Renesmee.
Nora and Andrew. That had been their kids' names, hadn't it?
He grit his teeth and ran faster.
That life wasn't even a memory.
It had always been just a dream.