This was written as a contribution to Fandom4Storms. Thanks to faite-comme-moi for beta'ing it. It's Post-Eclipse and completely AU.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bella, Jacob or any of the characters owned by Stephenie Meyer. I do own my original ones.
I had the idea for this one-shot while listening to the song I'm Coming Home (this one, http : / / www (.) youtube (.) com/ watch?v =RWYOXKx3OGU.)Things went a little out of hand as I was writing so the plot doesn't really follow the lyrics.
I'm Coming Home
Bella sat in her car, staring at the red house in front of her. Even through the heavy rain, it wasn't hard to see nothing had changed. She had been gone for six years. Six long years. Six long years away from this house, and the warmth it usually brought her. Six years and, finally, she was so close to it again. Her hands were shaking on her lap, the tears sliding down her face. It had taken everything she had in her to leave. She was exhausted, terrified and ecstatic all at the same time.
It was dark outside but the light was on in the living room. She wondered if things had changed inside. She could still picture the way the furniture was arranged around the house. It was vivid in her memory, as if she had been here just the day before. She was getting cold in the car. The heater had broken somewhere along the way. There she was, shivering in her little summer dress that didn't protect her from the cold of La Push. She was used to the cold. It had been her best companion for the past years. She was sick of it now. She longed for warmth instead. A warmth that could make her body feel like it was on fire, a warmth that could melt her heart.
Bella took a deep breath and stepped out of the car. She had parked the car far away from the front of the house. She didn't want them to know she was here when she wasn't sure she would even go to them. There was something in her heart telling her they may not be happy to see her. Somehow, she understood this. She had said awful things, she had broken hearts and she had been a traitor to her friends. She expected to be hated. She deserved it. It didn't mean it would be easy to go through all of this. It was time to change, though. Time to fix her mistakes; time to become close again to those who used to mean the world to her.
She hurried up the front yard, the gravel slowing her progress, the rain soaking her thin clothes. By the time she reached the top of the stairs, and protection of the porch roof, her long hair was plastered to her face and her naked legs were buckling under her. Bella was sure people could hear her teeth chatter for miles. The rain was supposed to be at least a little less bitter in August. This weather was crazy.
Now, she was facing the front door. What awaited her behind was frightening. She was afraid the door would be opened and closed instantly when they saw her. If they recognized her. It wasn't obvious that they would. They expected her to be frozen in time by now. They couldn't be more wrong. Not that Bella hadn't been looking forward to it. She had been. It just wasn't meant to be, apparently. She was tired of unanswered questions. She was tired by the drive, too. She lifted her shaking hand to knock on the door but before she could do it, it opened suddenly.
Bella was staring into the eyes of her best friend. Former best friend. She didn't think he thought of her as a friend anymore. How could he when the last time she spoke to him was to tell him he wasn't enough? She didn't say anything. She let him gape at her, surely thinking that he was dreaming. He expected her to be dead. He never expected to see her again. But there she was.
Her hand fell back to her side as she allowed him to examine every single part of her body. He didn't say anything. He looked surprised, of course. He didn't look mad, though. This could come later, when he would have recovered. Since she didn't know what to say to explain why she was here, she stared back, realizing that he hadn't changed so much in six years. Except that his hair was longer, but not quite as long as it was when they first started to hang out in his garage. He was wearing better clothes than what she was used to see him in. His face looked older, as if he had actually started to age again. Maybe he had stopped phasing? When she left, she had taken the vampires with her. There was no reason for Jacob to phase after that.
His eyebrows came together as he frowned, his shoulders slumping as if in defeat.
"Come inside. You're freezing." No welcome, no big hug, no smile. But he had invited her in. It was enough to feel like she hadn't been rejected. Once inside, she found out that she was right. Nothing had changed. It really was as if she had left yesterday.
"I'll go get you some dry clothes. You're going to catch a cold. Only you. Catching a cold in the middle of summer."
She didn't know what to do with herself. The house was silent. Billy must have been sleeping already. It was 11p.m. after all.
"Here. You can go change in the bathroom."
When she was done, she took a few minutes to check her face in the mirror, trying to tame her hair. She felt apprehensive over what was going to happen next. She knew he was waiting for her. What they were going to say to each other, she had no idea.
"I made you some tea." He pushed the mug to the other side of the kitchen table, motioning for her to sit. There was something odd about the room. It was actually very clean and tidy. She didn't remember things being this way back in the old days. Was there a woman in their life to help them with the house? Was there a woman in his life? Bella knew it was unfair to feel the pang of hurt and jealousy that shot through her chest. She had no right to be jealous. She had made her choice, so it was only natural for him to move on as well. It didn't matter that he was so in love with her at the time. Things must have changed since then.
Bella sat down, busying her hands with the hot mug. Her hands had been freezing. She was the one who had showed up on his doorstep. She had to be the one to make the first step. She had traveled for such a long time to reach him. It wasn't the moment to be shy.
"I'm sorry I'm showing up so late. I just… I needed to be somewhere that felt like home and… you're the first one I thought of."
"What about your husband? Isn't he the one you should go running to when someone is being mean to you?" Harsh words. She deserved them.
"I need a break, Jak… Jacob. I need some time to myself and I was hoping that you would…"
"That I would what? Welcome you back with open arms? Act like nothing had happened? It's been six years, Bella! Six years without even a tiny sign that you were alive. I think you should know that I'm still pissed at your for this. I mean, okay. You made your choice, fine. It wasn't me and it hurt at the time. I got over that part. But you literally disappeared. Disappeared! I thought you were dead." It felt like he was emptying his heart on her. Like he had been waiting all these years to say what was on his mind, to tell the world why he was mad. She took it all in silence. He was right.
"I'm sorry, Jacob. I know it doesn't change anything. I was selfish and afterward, I was convinced you hated me, which you had every right to do. I know it doesn't change anything I did. I don't expect you to smile and go back to the way we were before. We can't go back there. I was just hoping that you would offer me a quiet space to think about my life. I… I'm kind of lost, and I wish I had a friend to confide in."
"I don't think I can be your friend anymore." She had dreaded hearing those words. It was hard to see someone who used to be such a happy, sweet person tell you to your face they couldn't be friends with you. The cold and unaffected way he said the words hurt, too. It was as if she didn't matter to him anymore. She realized her mistake. What she had done in the past couldn't be fixed. She had no one to go to when she needed comfort.
"I don't expect you to. I made a mistake coming here in the first place. I'm sorry. It was foolish to think you would accept me back. I'll go get a room at a hotel or something."
"Don't be ridiculous. It's the middle of the night and it's raining like hell. You're not leaving this house. You can sleep in my bed. I'll take the couch. Maybe we can talk more tomorrow. We're both tired right now." She nodded, finishing the tea that had cooled down by then. She was very tired. She had been driving for days and her nights had been restless for the past couple of months. She wanted nothing more but to crash and sleep for hours.
She stood up from the table to go empty the mug in the sink. As she brushed past Jacob, he stood up as well. Before she had the time to realize what was going on, she found herself prisoner of one of his famous bone-crushing hugs. Oh, how she had missed those. His body wasn't as hot as she remembered; another clue that he must have stopped phasing. But she liked the way his arms brought her flush to his chest and the way he wasn't careful with her. She had enough of people being careful around her, of people doing everything they could to make sure she wasn't hurt in any way. She used to get mad because it would be simpler to change her, to make her a vampire and then they wouldn't have to worry about Bella, the porcelain doll. Her requests had always gone unnoticed.
"This doesn't change what I said. I'm still pissed at you, but oh God, I'm very, very, very glad you're still human. I can't believe it's you. It's really you. You're not one of them. I'm pissed, but thank you. Thank you for staying you."
She didn't have time to enjoy the hug. He released her too fast, silently leaving the room to guide her toward his room. She didn't need to be shown around. She perfectly knew where she would be sleeping. Except that she was wrong. Jacob stopped in front of the door to the room which used to be Rachel and Rebecca's when they lived here. Bella remembered Jacob and his father using it as a storage room since the twins never came around. She had never tried to go in there. Too many dangerous tools placed in hazardous places. It wouldn't have taken her five minutes to end up with an injury.
"You switched rooms? You needed more space?" It was weird. If he needed it, he would have moved into the bigger bedroom when he first started phasing, and his bed became too small. He could have bought a bigger bed, put it in the bigger room, and gotten the sleep he so badly needed. So why now?
"Something like that, yeah."
"Oh, then you can keep your bed, Jacob. I'll go sleep in there. I don't want to bother you." She made for the bedroom she knew the best. He stopped her, his hand leaving her arm wanting more. His touch felt very good. She had almost forgotten how it felt.
"There's already someone sleeping in there. Take my room. I'll be fine."
"Someone else? Who?" Was she prying? She was prying. She was curious, even if it was none of her business. Who else could be living with Jacob? And who was important enough to be given his room? He looked conflicted as he gazed at the closed door, like he didn't want her to know more about his life.
"Who's Tommy?" Somewhere deep inside, her heart sighed with relief. She had expected him to say it was a girl. She didn't have the right to be jealous. She simply couldn't help it.
"Tommy's my son."
Bella slept incredibly well that night. For the first time in years she woke up feeling really rested. Sure, she had tossed around quite a bit before drifting off. She hadn't expected the news Jacob dropped on her. He had definitely moved on. And he had a child. She had trouble imagining this. He was young, only 22. She didn't ask any more questions, though. It was clear he didn't want to talk about it.
The sheets smelled like him, an odor she had forgotten and actually missed without realizing it. It was great to sleep in a real bed in a house, not in a random hotel found on the side of the road. After two months spent in hotels, she had gotten sick of them. Besides, it was comforting to know nobody would be watching her sleep. Over the past weeks, she had often wondered how it could have not bothered her before. She was always self-conscious, and being aware that every move you'd make at night would be seen should have made her extra uncomfortable.
When she opened her eyes the morning after, it was to realize that the rain had stopped. The sun was shining brightly through the window, lighting up the whole room. One look at the digital clock on the bedside table indicated that it was almost noon. No surprise she felt rested. She had slept more than twelve hours.
The house was quiet. She was anxious to face Jacob again. She was bound to run into the kid if she stayed all day in their house. She couldn't bring herself to decide whether it was a good thing or not. But she only found Billy sitting in the living room reading the newspaper. Now that it wasn't as hard to be inside as the day before, she noticed all the clues that a child was living under this roof. There were toys scattered everywhere. Fire trucks, crayons, teddy bears.
"Hi, Billy." He turned his head slowly, taking his time to examine her from head to toe. The look on his face was a little friendlier than the one Jacob had granted her.
"Good morning, Bella. There's coffee in the kitchen. Help yourself with whatever you like for breakfast."
She did just that. She poured some coffee in the same mug as the night before. She put some cereal in a bowl with milk. And she noticed the high chair next to the table. It hadn't been there earlier or she would have asked questions. Jacob had a small child then. He hadn't told her anything about Tommy except his name, even if he had done so reluctantly.
"I have to admit I was quite surprised when Jake told me you were here." Billy wanted to talk. He was going to try to ask why she was in his house. If she hadn't wanted to reply, she wouldn't have gone to sit on the couch. It was only fair. He was welcoming her in his house after all.
"He was surprised, too, I think. He clearly wasn't expecting me."
"He thought you were dead. You couldn't have come on the rez if you were. He stopped waiting for you a long time ago."
"I didn't realize I was hurting him so much by staying out of his life. I assumed it was what would be the best, given that I had broken his heart and all."
"I'm not going to lie to you, Bella, but don't tell him I said that. He'll be mad. The boy cried his eyes out after you left. He spent months hoping you would change your mind and come back."
She cringed. She had been so blissfully happy with the Cullens, even if they wouldn't change her yet. She had gotten what she wanted by marrying the man she loved. She could attend a prestigious university and learn all the things she had always dreamed of learning. One small part of her still thought of Jacob from time to time. Her feelings for him were too strong to be pushed away. With the months passing, and her life being busy, she had started to really believe it was best for him that she stayed away. That it was best to not even contact him. It would only re-open wounds which were trying to heal. It looked like she'd been wrong.
"And then one day, he said he'd had enough. It was like watching him being born again. Given that, it's even surprising that he let you in. Why are you here, Bella? Because I swear if it's to break his heart one more time, I won't have any remorse kicking you out of my house. Got it?"
There was something weird in hearing Billy threaten her. She didn't remember Billy ever threatening someone. He was always calm, but sure. He loved Jacob deeply; it was normal to want to protect him.
"I won't, Billy. I promise. I'm only here because well… the Cullens can't come to La Push."
"Trouble with the vampires?"
"I've been trying to shake them off to have some time to myself. They won't take a hint. I figured La Push was the best place…"
"You were right, Bella. If you need to stay away from them, you're welcome here as long as you need to. Just be careful around Jake. He's going through some hard stuff at the moment."
Billy patted her leg, and with that, he went back to the Sport page in his paper, leaving Bella to reflect on their short conversation. They hadn't seen each other in forever, yet, they'd talked like it hadn't been six years since she last walked into this house.
She finished her breakfast, deciding that she would clean the kitchen afterward. It was the least she could do as she wasn't very welcome in the little house. She would help in any way she could. She wasn't too keen on going outside. People could see her. She wasn't ready to face people and their questions. They would gossip about why she was here, so she was safer inside. It wouldn't be able to last for weeks, but she wanted to get her thoughts in order first.
She spent the afternoon cooking for the three boys. Billy told her that Tommy was two when she asked the kind of meal she could put together. Somehow, she felt better knowing Jacob hadn't run into the arms of another girl to get some comfort immediately after she left. She would have hated to have caused him to have a child. If Tommy was only two, she wasn't responsible for anything.
Her cell phone had long been forgotten in the pocket of her jacket hanging next to the front door. Jacob must have put it there after he dried it for her. She was reminded of the device when the shrilling ring tone demanded her attention. She didn't have to look at the screen to know who it was. She didn't have to answer to know what he was going to tell her. She didn't want to listen to him. He had betrayed her over and over again. It would likely end like it had before: with her crying. If there was any reason she was in La Push, it was to be free from him and his family for a few days. Bella switched off the cell phone.
"Are you okay, Bella?" Billy sounded genuinely concerned. There was a baseball game on TV and he actually turned around to look at her. Yes. He was concerned. She sighed, dropping the phone back in the pocket of the jacket.
"You don't look fine to me. I know I'm biased when it comes to vampires, but I can listen if you need me to." Then he turned the TV off, signaling that he was, indeed, ready to listen. Bella sighed again, moving closer, the tears she had wanted to avoid threatening to spill.
"I'm getting a divorce, Billy."
Tommy was the happiest toddler Bella had ever met. Not that she had met a lot of them. There was so much of Jacob in him. After he passed his first apprehension at seeing a stranger in his house, he kept babbling at her. It stirred something inside of her to see Jacob interact with his son. He was so affectionate with him. It felt natural to watch him play with the little boy. She would have almost thought he was oblivious to her watching them. His son was the most important thing in the world for him. He couldn't spend a lot of time with him during the day, so a former friend wasn't going to spoil his bonding time with Tommy.
Bella found herself smiling at the sight in front of her. It could make her forget her own life was a miserable mess. She had cried for hours after speaking with Billy. She hadn't meant to tell him everything but, once she started, she couldn't stop except when she was choking on her sobs. It had felt wonderful to be able to confide in someone.
She told him how Edward's promise to change her had been delayed every month. She had given in to his condition: she had married him. He had given in to her: they'd had sex. Or they'd tried to. She couldn't remember how it had gone. What she did remember was waking up the morning after to bruises all over her body and a husband telling her it was far too dangerous to do it again. In six years, all they had done was kiss. Surprisingly, she hadn't minded it. She had been pissed at first but she had gotten used to it. Besides, school took a lot of her time.
She had loved going to college. It hadn't been the case at the beginning. She didn't want to wait any longer to become a vampire. She had wanted to be frozen at eighteen. With the haze of moving to the other side of the country, none of them (or so she thought) had realized they had missed her birthday that year. Sure, they threw her a party (courtesy of Alice), but now that she was nineteen and the damage was done, she could try college, right?
After her first week at Columbia, Bella had decided college was far better than what she imagined. Her classes were amazing, the teachers extremely cultivated, and she had soon found herself buried under tons of homework. Becoming a vampire would mean having to stop going to class for a couple of years. She wanted to graduate first. She would still look young. Anyway, Esme was older than Carlisle and nobody noticed it.
Her life had been so great; she had made friends and she could spend time with Edward, just the two of them. She had everything to be happy and, really, she was. That is, until she became suspicious that something was going on behind her back. Edward would go on longer hunting trips. He wouldn't take her calls. Of course, he always had the perfect excuse. Bella couldn't know how it was to be hunting. It wasn't something she could relate to. So she just had to trust him.
One day, she had gone on a field trip with her friends from grad school. She had high ambitions about her education at this point. She knew she would have forever to learn everything when she became a vampire, but it felt like cheating. Bella wanted to learn things by herself, the old-fashioned way. She wanted to study late at night, depriving herself of a sleep she needed. She also wanted to go out with the girls to drink cocktails. She wanted to go to a park to study in the grass, sunbathing at the same time. Edward had always said he would love her no matter how old she was, how she looked. His company was enough. It was great to come back to him at night, to spend the evening talking and cuddling.
But that night, Bella had come home early because the rain had ruined the day. She had been soaked wet, water dripping on the very expensive carpet in the hallway at home. She hadn't been prepared for what she heard. It sounded like people were trashing her bedroom. Afterward, she would wish she hadn't opened the door. She had been too paralyzed to talk or move. Edward had claimed that it meant nothing, that she was the only one he truly loved, that the sexy vampire in their bed meant nothing to him. Bella couldn't believe him. She had felt like she had been punched in the gut.
She could remember screaming words at him that she had never spoken before. She had thrown everything she could put her hand on at him. She had thought he didn't mind not having sex. He'd always said holding her in his arms was enough for him. She couldn't believe he had lied. He had crushed all she believed in. She couldn't trust him anymore. She couldn't understand why he hadn't talked to her; why he would have lied when he said he could do without sex when it was obvious that he couldn't. He could do without sex with her. It hurt. She had gotten married to please him. She had left her home for him. She attended school because he'd asked her to. If this was the way he was thanking her, she didn't want to be associated with him.
Bella had packed her bags that night. It had been almost two months since she left her fancy apartment in Manhattan. She had gone on a road trip to see places she had never seen before, to go into towns where nobody knew her. She had had a lot of time to think. Away from the Cullens, her body had started to feel different. One night, it dawned on her that she must have been under the spell of what the vampires used to lure their victims. How foolish of her to assume she would be immune to it just because Edward claimed that he loved her and would never hurt her. She couldn't sleep after this epiphany. She kept shaking in the little motel room, terrified by this new realization. She needed comfort.
"Thank you for meal, Bell." Tommy had tried to say her name but the "a" sound wasn't easy for him. Bella turned around from the sink where she was washing the dishes to face the little boy snuggled in his father's arms. Jacob was a dad. She still had trouble processing this. She couldn't help smiling as the toddler looked at her from behind the hand which was rubbing his eye.
"You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it."
"You cook again tomorrow?"
"Ah… I don't know…"
"It's not nice to ask girls to cook for you all the time, Tommy. Except if Bella wants to cook again…" He was giving her the okay to stay one more day with them. Her body relaxed. They hadn't been able to talk yet, and there was something heavy hanging above their heads. She didn't like it.
"I don't mind cooking again, Jacob. It's nice to know I have fans." She was rewarded by a big yawn from Tommy. It was getting late.
"Time to go to bed, buddy. Say good night to our guest."
"Good night, Tommy." She would have made to give a kiss to the little boy, just like Jacob did, smoothing his son's hair out of his face. He didn't give her the chance to move closer. She could be friendly with his family but she couldn't step into their own, private world.
"Hey, do you want to step outside for a few minutes?" Bella jumped a little in surprise when she heard Jacob's voice again. She had been lost in her dishes for the past ten minutes, wondering what was happening in his former bedroom. Was he the kind of dad who would read stories? Did he tuck Tommy in? Did he sing something to him? And, more importantly, she kept wondering where his mother was. Not a word had been said about her. Tommy hadn't even mentioned that he had a mom. Bella was dying to ask the question.
Jacob led her onto the porch where they sat on top of the stairs. They were sitting relatively close to each other, close enough so she could assume he didn't hate her as much as she thought. She felt awkward now that she knew he had a busy life, and that she had arrived in it with all her problems which weren't his. He probably didn't care about them. She stared at the can of soda in her hands, gazing straight in front of her.
"Thanks. It's not mine, though. I got it at the rental company at the airport. The heating system broke down a couple of days ago. I'll have to get it to a garage before giving it back."
"I'll look at it. It's not a problem."
"I don't want to cause any more trouble for you. It's okay."
"Nah. It's gonna cost you a lot to take her to the garage. I'll fix it for you"
"All right, then. Thank you. I guess I've been on the road for so long, something was bound to happen to it."
"Can I ask you why you're here exactly? Why did you come back here out of the blue?"
Bella didn't really want to have this conversation again. Once had been enough. Crying in front of Jacob wasn't an experience she wanted to re-enact. But he was offering her a roof and a bed, so he had the right to know after all. She took a deep breath, avoiding his gaze purposely.
"I needed to go to people I could trust. People I knew wouldn't hurt me on purpose."
"Did Cullen mess up?"
"You can say that. I found out that he was… cheating on me. With a vampire so beautiful and sexy. I would have never stood a chance anyway." She wiped off the single tear that slid down her cheek. He was clutching his empty can firmly. He was angry.
"What an asshole. He got the girl, and he screws up? Fucking leech. And you're beautiful, Bella. You were afraid of aging, but you aged good. Don't dare let anyone lead you into thinking you're not pretty. Because you are."
"I wasn't enough for him." She wrapped her arms around her chest in a gesture of self-comfort she had adopted back when she left her fancy apartment. She had expected Jacob to reach out for her. He was always the best at comforting her. He would give her a hug, tell her everything would be okay, and she would feel better. But this time, he did nothing. He didn't touch her.
"Is that why you're here? Your first choice betrayed you, and now you're running back to your second one? I swear, if that's why you're here tonight, you can pack your things and leave. I'm not taking you back. I've pined enough over you in the past. And for what? Nothing. Somehow, I'm glad you left me heartbroken. If you had stayed, I wouldn't have Tommy. He means the world to me."
His words hurt as much as the ones he spoke the night before. He was right. She had been a bitch; she was starting to realize it. She glanced at him to meet the angry look in his eyes. She felt like slapping herself for making him feel this way. She couldn't understand why he accepted her into his house if he was so angry at her.
"I can see that. He looks just like you. He's beautiful, Jacob. And, no; I may be selfish, but I wouldn't do something like that to you. You were my friend, and I loved you, in my own way. Like I told Billy, I needed to go somewhere the Cullens couldn't reach me."
"Nice. You're here because you couldn't go anywhere else. Classy, Bella. Listen, what I said yesterday still stands. I don't think I can be your friend anymore. You did things that are hard to forgive. But if you need to stay away from bloodsuckers, who am I to deny you this after all? You can stay around. Just don't expect me to welcome you back and erase your mistakes."
Jacob stood up before she had the chance to reply. She didn't have anything to say in her defense. She didn't remember Jacob ever being aggressive or unfriendly, except with vampires. She would be lying if she said it didn't hurt. Her heart ached that she had lost his friendship. She hadn't expected to see him again while she was blissfully happy in New York City. Her whole life had been turned upside down, and she was starting to grasp how many mistakes she had made.
"You may want to consider letting your father know you're around. The poor guy has been miserable ever since you left."
Bella didn't sleep very well that night. She kept having nightmares about Edward and Jacob being mean to her. She had never expected either of them to treat her like they did. The only difference between them was that Jacob's reaction was justified. He had every right to be angry at her, or to want to keep her away from his family. She had spent hours thinking about what he said to her. She knew Charlie had been devastated when she left almost without saying goodbye. She hadn't talked to him once in six years.
Charlie had disapproved of her getting married at only 18. Everybody she knew had disagreed, actually. He had said that he wouldn't attend her wedding if she didn't wait a couple more years. Bella had been absolutely furious at this. She could clearly remember hastily packing her bags, throwing them in the backseat of Edward's car and not looking back. She was an adult, she was responsible, she could do whatever the heck she wanted. Bella had resented her father very much for not supporting her. She never wanted to talk to him again. Jacob's words had made her realize that this had been yet another mistake. How could she have cut herself loose from her parents? Even if the Cullens had been more than enough as a family, it wasn't the same. It'd never be the same.
Bella woke up early to loud whispering outside her door. Her feet were tangled in the sheets and she was sweating. She needed a shower. One look at the clock told her it wasn't eight a.m. yet. She was about to step into the hallway when she heard her name, and she stopped, the door cracked open.
"You want to throw Bella out?"
"I never said that. It's just that if she's going to stick around for quite some time, I'll feel better knowing she's somewhere else. I'm going to ask Seth to take her in."
"No matter what she says, she came back to you. Not to Seth."
"She came back to be away from the Cullens, Dad. It's completely different. I don't want her near Tommy, that's all."
"What are you afraid of exactly? That she's going to kidnap him? Bella may have changed, but I don't think she's become a criminal."
"Bella couldn't physically hurt someone even if she wanted to. Emotionally, she's a pro. I don't want Tommy to think she's going to live with us forever if she doesn't plan on doing just that. I can't have him thinking he's getting a mom when it's not the case."
"Listen, Jake. I understand what you mean, but… Does it mean you're going to avoid girls for the rest of your life for Tommy's sake?"
"It's not what I said. He' so small, and last night, he was already talking about Bella as if she was going to replace Elena. Sure, he doesn't remember Elena, but all the other kids at daycare have a mom and a dad, except him. He wants to be like everybody else. He doesn't understand why it's different for him."
"He will when he's be older. I think you're right. Bella would be better somewhere else, then. Kids are so impressionable. You're the one telling Bella she's not welcome in our house anymore, though."
"She's not 'not' welcome, Dad."
"From your conversation last night, it sure sounded like you didn't want her anywhere near you."
"Geez. Do you have to eavesdrop on every single word I say?"
"Hey! I'm bored most of the day. I take entertainment in whatever I can. Besides, all of this is gonna be great gossip material."
Bella had heard enough. She quietly closed the door of the bedroom to sink back on the bed. She was hurt. Jacob wanted her out. She wouldn't have thought he could do something like that. She had been anticipating their reunion nervously, but never in her dreams had she thought that he would reject her so much. She had thought that he would be mad, which he had been, and afterward they would talk and work things out. It wasn't that easy. She didn't want to live with Seth. She remembered him being a great kid. He wasn't Jacob, though. She had come to him in hope that he would be able to comfort her. She didn't want to face anybody else before she got her life under control again. What was she going to do now?
She decided that she was going to have a shower first. It may help her see things clearer. She wasn't supposed to have heard the conversation anyway. She was looking for a clean towel when she stumbled upon the framed photograph Jacob had hidden in one of his drawers. She hadn't meant to look. She simply didn't want to bother the guys during their morning routine. She hadn't meant to disturb their life so much in the first place.
She stood there, staring at the picture. Jacob was sporting his trademark sweet smile, his hair hanging loose from his rubber band. He had his arm draped over the shoulder of a pretty girl Bella didn't know, and she was holding a small baby close to her chest. Bella had no trouble putting two and two together. The girl must be the Elena Jacob and his dad had been talking about. As she looked closer, she saw how much Tommy looked like his mother. She was so beautiful, with long blonde hair and eyes of a dark blue like the ocean. The two of them looked very happy with their baby. So what had happened? Where was the pretty girl? What had happened to her? Nobody in their right mind would abandon Jacob. Scratch that. It was exactly what Bella had done. Correction: nobody in their right mind would abandon Jacob with a baby. Bella was dying to know the whole story even if she had no right to ask for it.
She put the picture back into place and went to the bathroom. The voices in the kitchen were now bantering about the next baseball game on TV. Her short walk in the hallway went unnoticed. Bella was about to step into the shower when she realized that she had managed to forget to bring a change of clothes with her. She wasn't going to wear her sweaty pajamas again. And walking in a towel was out of the question. She went back to Jacob's room, coming to a halt as she noticed that he was inside, the framed picture in his hand. He didn't look pleased.
"The drawer was half-open. What were you looking for? What did you need? I already told you I don't want you back in my life so why are you trying to ruin everything?"
"I'm sorry, Jacob. I was looking for a towel and…"
"You should have asked. This is private. You had no right to go through my things!"
Bella felt like she was going to screw up again and again with Jacob. Ever since she pulled up in front of his house, she had been making many mistakes. She shouldn't have come here in the first place. Going to Seth's didn't sound like such a bad idea anymore. If he still liked her, she could deal with staying with him. She wasn't so sure that he would welcome her with open arms, though. Nobody had done so yet.
She could do nothing more but apologize at this point. She shut her mouth after seeing the look on Jacob's face. He was angry at her, and at the same time, he looked like he was gone far away. And were there tears in his eyes? Bella had never seen him cry. Even when she came to tell him that he wasn't enough and that she was choosing Edward, he never cried. He was too proud for that. She had messed up bad if he was on the verge of crying. She closed the door behind her to give him some privacy. She carefully walked closer to him. The bed sank underneath his weight as he sat down.
"I'm really sorry, Jacob. I wouldn't have looked if I had known it was so important for you. I'm sorry."
"Leave me alone."
"It's my fault if you're crying. I'm not leaving until you feel better."
"Please. Not everything is your fault, Bella. Stop thinking you're the center of the universe. My feelings don't always revolve around you."
"I'm trying to comfort you. I understand that you're pissed, but you have no right to talk to me this way! It's not fair."
"What is not fair is you coming back, assuming that everybody's forgiven you and that we're awaiting your arrival like you're some kind of prodigal daughter. What's not fair is having to deal with your problems on top of all the ones I already have. So don't come telling me that speaking to you harshly isn't fair. I bet you're used to people cooing over you, telling you you're doing great, right? Well, it's not like that around here."
"What's wrong, Jacob? I can see something's wrong. One look at a picture and you're tearing apart. Tell me."
"Why would you care?"
"You're still my friend. I know I messed up and you don't want to hear about me, but I'm right beside you. You comforted me many times in the past. Can you forget all I've done for a few minutes and just tell me? It's not like I have anyone else to share your secret with. I'm good at keeping secrets."
Bella sat close to Jacob on the bed. He did not reject her this time. He looked up, his eyes showing his surrender. It was true that he needed comfort. He hadn't been able to talk about his personal drama in weeks. Everybody on the rez understood that it was best to leave him in peace. He had to put on a brave face for Tommy. It was hard, very hard. Jacob wiped the tears off his cheeks.
"This girl, Elena, she's Tommy's mother."
"I figured. She's beautiful. Tommy is the perfect mix between you two. He has her eyes."
"Yeah, and her nose. He pretty much has everything from her except for the color of his skin. That's all me. Looking at him, it's like looking at a miniature of his mother."
"What happened to her, Jacob? I never heard any of you mentioning her before."
"That's because she's… not around anymore… She had an accident when Tommy was like six months old. A drunken asshole crashed right into her car. She didn't even make it to the hospital."
"Oh, God. I'm so sorry, Jacob. I would have never… God, that's horrible. I'm so sorry."
"I was completely lost. My mom, and now Elena? I felt like I was cursed. And I had to take care of a baby. I had no idea what to do. I still don't really know what I'm doing. I just… I miss her. I miss her every day. It's been more than a year but it feels like it was only yesterday. It hurts because she's never gonna yell at me for forgetting to buy the kind of cheese she likes the most. It hurts because I have to look strong for Tommy when all I want to do is crawl in bed, get drunk, and cry. I…"
"It's okay, Jake. It's all right. I've got you."
Jacob's weight was resting against Bella's side, his head on her shoulder. She hadn't initiated the physical contact. She knew better by now. Her heart was breaking for him. She wanted to cry, too. She wanted to go find the man who had ruined such a sweet family. Jacob's problems were so much bigger than hers. She felt stupid for getting angry earlier. She wrapped her arm around his back, her hand soothing him.
"Billy keeps telling me it gets better with time. I don't see any change yet. And people expect me to be okay since it's been so long. They think that because I have Tommy, I should be okay again. It's not how it works, and I hate them for thinking that they knew what I'm going through when it's not the case."
"It's normal to miss her. You loved her. You had a baby with her. It doesn't matter if it's been two weeks or two years."
Bella kept on rocking him until he somehow calmed down. He didn't say anything else. She didn't know what to say to make him feel better. She understood his conversation with Billy now. She was willing to leave the three Black boys alone. Tommy needed stability. He needed a maternal figure. She didn't want to lead him on while she didn't even know what she wanted for herself. She couldn't give the little boy false hopes.
"Sorry for breaking down. I swear I'm not like that all the time."
"Don't apologize. You're been through hell. I'm the one who should apologize, actually. My problems are nothing compared to yours."
"I wouldn't say that. You've got a douche bag cheating on you. Hey… I'm sorry for what I said last night. I meant most of it, but I missed you. I can't lie about that. I missed my best friend. I wish we could try to work past our issues. I don't know if I can, but I'd like to try."
"I'd like that, too."
"Now that I've soaked your shirt, I feel like a barrier has been lifted between us. It doesn't mean I'm forgiving you yet. I'm willing to work on it."
"Sounds good to me."
Bella smiled in spite of the situation. She was happy to have the chance to get Jacob's friendship back. She wanted to do everything she could to work things out. Jacob was about to speak again when they heard some noise from the room next door. Tommy was up. Their conversation would have to wait until later.
Bella quickly learned that Saturdays were leisure time at the Black house. She had never seen Jacob cook. She was surprised when she saw him in front of the stove, making pancakes. Tommy was in his high chair laughing about whatever his grandfather was saying. Bella really felt like an intruder. When she made the decision to come back, she hadn't imagined this. She had imagined Jacob living with his dad. He would never be around, always with his friends. He would have allowed her to stay because he would have been happy to see that she had broken up with his enemy. She would have cooked for the both of them. They would have easily gone back to the way they were before. She would have had time to think. She would have gotten some comfort from her friends.
She hadn't imagined that Jacob would have a kid, that he wouldn't be sweet and nice with her. She had been surprised. She should have expected it. She was too used to people catering to her every need, minus the one in which she wanted to become a vampire. She had gotten all the kitchen furniture she'd wanted; she had shopped in the most expensive shops with Alice. She had seen the best Broadways shows with Esme. They had gone on expensive trips. She had been happy around them. Or so she thought. Being happy in the Blacks' house was different. Being happy here meant having breakfast together. Bella had missed eating with other people. She always had breakfast by herself. She was jealous of Jacob and Billy for having what she didn't have for the last six years.
After breakfast, Jacob told her his plan. He was different from the night before. He had cried on her shoulder, he had confided in her. He had said that he hated her, but she didn't believe him as much now as she did earlier. He wouldn't have opened up to her if he did. He would have resisted. She was willing to do everything she could to make him see how sorry she was for her former mistakes. She wanted to show him that he meant a lot to her, that she had been an idiot for not sending any news. She should have known he wouldn't forget her; that he would think she'd been changed. She should have spared him the trouble of thinking that she'd become his worst enemy.
Bella agreed to go live with Seth. She understood that it was the best for Tommy. She was dying to ask whether Jacob would have let her stay in his house if he hadn't had a kid. She was afraid of the reply so she didn't say anything. Explaining it to Tommy was harder. He was excited about her, especially when he realized that she had spent the night. She didn't want to disappoint him. Jacob didn't want his child to have his heart broken because of a girl. Bella had broken his own heart; it had been enough damage already.
Saturday was the day Jacob always took Tommy to the beach. Of course, the little boy had wanted Bella to tag along. She had said no when she noticed his father's pleading look. She had no right to intrude into something that strictly belonged to the guys. She stayed at the house with Billy. He didn't try to talk to her this time. His curiosity had been satisfied. She didn't want to talk. She wanted to have time to think. She borrowed a blanket, and went to lie on the grass in the back yard. It wasn't as messy as she remembered. There were some toys lying around. The grass was cut. It didn't look like the forest was directly behind the back door. The sun was shining. Bella felt good. For the first time in weeks, she really felt good.
She knew there was still the problem of her cell phone turned off in her jacket. She knew that, eventually, she'd have to call back her husband. She had been pissed that he couldn't respect her decision to take some time off. She couldn't forgive him for chasing after her when he was the one who had messed up. She may have messed up with Jacob, but Bella had never messed up with Edward. She had been the perfect wife. She would have cooked for him if she'd been able to. She went with him to the museums he wanted to visit, she always took his calls, even if she was in the library. He would get restless if she didn't. It was partly why she wasn't taking his calls right now. He had betrayed her after she had been willing to give up everything to be with him. She could have ruined her life for him. And what did he do? He jumped in bed with the first sexy vampire he met. Bella hadn't expected it because it wasn't something Edward was likely to do. He was so in love with her. She hadn't waited to hear his explanation. She didn't want to be associated with him after her discovery.
She had come to the conclusion that she wanted to get a divorce. She didn't care about the money. Money was convenient, but it didn't heal a broken heart. It seemed fair that she had broken Jacob's heart and, in return, her heart had been shattered as well. She hoped that Edward wouldn't fight her on the divorce. She didn't think she could handle looking at him again.
Bella decided that making this phone call could wait a couple more days. She would enjoy her day of doing nothing. She would move in with Seth, who had agreed to get the guest room ready for her. She would think about what she wanted to do with herself. She wouldn't go back to Columbia to finish grad school. She did have a degree, though, and she was sure that she could find a job in Seattle. She hadn't meant to stay around, especially not when she saw how unwelcoming her former friend was. Seattle sounded like a great city, as far away from New York as she could find. Or maybe Los Angeles. Los Angeles would be good. The weather would be different. It was far away from La Push, which should make Jacob happy. Tommy wouldn't get any false ideas if she went to live in California.
She would be far away from her father, though. She still hadn't found the courage to call him. She felt like calling him would be better than knocking on his door. She wasn't brave enough for this. She was aware that she had screwed up their relationship as well. She felt sorry for it. She should have tried to contact him years ago. She had been too proud to do so. She had been an idiot. She had to call him. She had to fix up her mistakes. She would do so in a day or two.
Bella was feeling so good in the grass that she fell asleep. She caught up on the sleep she had missed during the night. When she woke up, it was the middle of the afternoon. Tommy was playing not too far away from her, with a fire truck. Jacob was sitting on the steps leading to the house, watching him. He attempted a smile when she sat up.
"Seth called. He said you can come whenever you want. I'll get you over there if you want."
"I want to come, too!"
Bella had to smile as Tommy let go of his toy to bounce toward his father. He didn't want to be left behind. Jacob grabbed his waist before he could fall head first. Her heart swelled at the sight in front of her. It amazed her how good Jacob was with his son. He was wrong when he said he didn't know what he was doing. Those things seemed natural to him. It amazed her how happy he managed to look when, in fact, he was hurting inside. Bella would never look at him the same way after their conversation this morning.
She went to pack the few things she had in Jacob's room. He busied Tommy with a snack. The little boy hadn't wanted to nap. He was too excited to have someone new to play with. It hadn't mattered that she was sleeping when they came back. He would play with her when she woke up. Jacob knew his son would get cranky soon. Tommy had asked him why the girl was leaving them so fast. He had managed to explain that she was just a distant friend visiting for a day. And that now, she was going to stay with another of her friends. She had many people to visit. She couldn't stay with them for too long. Tommy had only known her for less than one day. He wouldn't stay upset about it for too long. Indeed, one "okay" later, he wanted to go touch the ocean to see if the water was still cold.
Seth was more than happy to take her in. She felt good when she saw the big smile on his face. She wasn't prepared for the big hug, either. She hoped he wouldn't want to chat too much. She wasn't in the mood for chatting anymore. Seth was living in his parents' house, all by himself. Bella learned that Sue was now living with her dad. So many things had changed that she didn't know about. Were they married? How come she hadn't gotten an invitation? She hadn't told anyone where she was moving. He couldn't have known where to send her mail. And after all, Charlie hadn't been at her wedding. It was only fair that he didn't invite her to his. For the first time since she'd been forced to think about her dad again, she felt a pang of hurt at the idea that they had drifted apart so much.
Bella had offered to cook for the Blacks to thank them for their hospitality. She had been totally unexpected, unwelcome, and still they had invited her in. She had been mildly rejected, but at least she had had somewhere to stay. It was more than enough. Jacob drove them all back to his house after she settled in Leah's old bedroom. Tommy was babbling about the rain. The sun never stayed for very long in La Push. Seth, who was his godfather, was more than happy to discuss with the toddler, nodding and ruffling his little hair every once in a while. Bella felt herself smiling again at the normalcy of the situation. She would have never been able to interact with children if she had become a vampire. She didn't really want kids yet, as she had no idea with whom she could have them. But not being with Edward meant that her options had opened. If all the children were like Tommy, she didn't want to miss the opportunity to have her own.
Her mood fell as the car pulled into the front yard. There was her father's cruiser parked right next to her fancy car. She wasn't pleased about that. What was he doing here? She wasn't prepared to talk to him yet. Jacob sensed her tension. He asked Seth to take the little boy inside. They would meet them later.
"Did you call him? I can't believe you did that! That was my decision to make!"
"I didn't call anyone! You have to really stop thinking all I do is for you! You have to stop doing that! You sound like a spoiled brat when you do that!"
"Stop talking to me as if I'm acting like some kind of princess, Jacob! You know it's not true! I'm not like that! I didn't want to talk to Charlie yet. I wanted to think about it a little more."
"Think about what? About how you abandoned him without looking back? About how you broke his heart? About how you're hurting all the people who care about you? He's your dad, Bella! He's right here, and you don't want to talk to him? What kind of daughter are you?"
"I wanted to do it on my own conditions." She was going to cry. Jacob was going to make her cry.
"Well, it looks like fate hurried things up for you. I don't see how bad it is. You have to talk to him, that's all. He's not here for you. It's Saturday night. Saturday night means football on TV. See? Our actions don't revolve around you. You may have been led to thinking you're some kind of precious doll whose every need has to be attended to. It's not how it works around here. Not anymore."
"What's your problem, Jacob? One second you're saying you want to be friends again, and then you're acting like I'm nothing but dirt. If you've got something else to tell me, then go ahead. I don't see how we can work things out if you keep things from me."
"You wanna know what's bothering me? I hate myself more than I hate you, that's all! I hate myself for feeling the way I do when it comes to you. I hate you for coming back and bringing these feelings back. I hate you for trying to come back into my life. I hate myself for wanting to let you in. I hate myself for wanting to forgive you like nothing had happened because I'm just too damn happy you're still human. I hate myself for still being in love with you even after all these years. I hate you for getting stuck in my heart all these years, and for never leaving it. I hate you because I love Elena, but I've always loved you more. I hate myself for not being able to stop. I hate myself for wanting to kiss you since you've appeared in my door step. I hate you because you're going to leave again, and you're going to break my heart another time. I hate myself because it's easier to yell at you like I did before than to admit that I still want you. I hate myself for pining over a selfish girl all my life. And I hate myself for hating you because of that! That's what my fucking problem is, Bella!"
Bella sat speechless as she let his words sink in. He took a deep breath, but didn't look at her. He stepped out of the car, banging the door loudly. She would have never thought there were so many feelings in his mind. She was stunned by what she had heard.
"Hey, wait! Jacob, wait!"
The rain was picking up pace as they both stood outside, staring at each other. Jacob looked like he was about to break something. He was mad at himself for telling her everything. He hadn't meant to do it. He was supposed to work on his issues by himself. Bella felt like another obstacle had been lifted between them. He was insecure, he was hurt and he still loved her. He was angry at her for bringing back the love he thought he had managed to work past. One look at her was enough to see it wasn't the case. She had been so beautiful in her summer dress, completely soaked by the rain, her big eyes looking at him with apprehension. Her big brown eyes. The eyes of a human.
He had managed to convince himself that she was a vampire by now, and that she wanted to have nothing to do with him. It made it easier to forget her if she was his enemy. Having Elena had made it easier, too. This girl was just like him. She was always happy, always smiling. He had been drawn to her the first day she appeared on the beach. She never left town after her vacation. Jacob had loved her with all his heart. Bella had just been a distant memory by then. Jacob had really thought loving Elena would be enough. He hated himself for still dreaming about the pale girl sometimes at night while his girlfriend slept right next to him.
"Jacob… Hold on. I had no idea you felt this way…"
"It's kinda hard when I'm yelling at you, right? But listen. I can't let it change anything between us."
"Why not? If you told me, it's because it's hurting you. I don't want to hurt you anymore. I've done that so many times already."
"I can't let you in again if you're not going to stick around. You said you're only here to figure out what you want to do next. I can't allow myself to love you again just to have my heart crushed again. Been there, done that."
"And there's Tommy. I can't date because of him. I really can't. He comes first."
"Okay... But I just feel a little better knowing you don't really hate me."
"If I really hated you, you wouldn't have been allowed in the house in the first place."
"What's going to happen if I decide to stay around?"
"Do you want to stay around?"
"I don't know. It could be an option. I haven't thought about it yet."
"Nothing can happen if you're not serious about it. I'm not kidding, Bella. If you screw up with me and Tommy, you won't be welcome in town anymore. Besides, I don't think I'm ready either. I never loved her as much as I loved you, and it killed me, but Elena's still here."
Jacob brought his hand to his heart. She nodded, understanding perfectly what it meant to love two people at the same time.
"Can we still be friends?"
"I guess so. I sort of blew my cover when I said I didn't hate you as much as I wanted to. I'm super pissed at you, and at me, but hating you like I hate Cullen? No way. I couldn't do that even if I tried."
She couldn't believe so much had changed in such a short time. He had gone from yelling at her to confiding in her, to agreeing to be friends if they couldn't be anything else. She wasn't even sure she wanted them to be more. She was afraid she would mess up everything. She couldn't threaten the fragile relationship they now had. She knew it would be hard for them. He was still struggling with all the feelings bubbling inside. She was lost. Most of her stuff was still on the other side of the country. She was still married, even if she stopped wearing her ring a couple of weeks ago. She'd wanted to get rid of it altogether, but she felt bad about it since it was Edward's mother's ring. She never really liked the ring anyway.
They shook hands, not knowing what else they should do. He felt awkward for pouring everything out to her. She felt relieved to finally know what was going on inside his head. She was starting to get cold standing there in the rain. Going inside meant facing Charlie, though. She was scared of their reunion, much more than the one with Jacob. If she decided to live in La Push for a few more days, it was unfair to hide it from her father. Besides, he must know she was just outside. It was time for her to toughen up a little. She had already fixed some of her mistakes, and she felt better about it. She had to fix all of them if she wanted to go on with her life.
The four guys were crammed in the small living room, fighting over the game on TV and whoever was hopeless on the team. Bella was walking behind Jacob, hoping he could hide her. She should have been ashamed to be such a coward. Charlie was sitting on the couch, Tommy bouncing on his lap, giggling so much that it seemed he was going to choke on his laughter. Everybody looked in the direction of the front door when they came inside.
She was shaking from the rain, and from fear, too. She expected her father to yell at her as well. Or to tell her he never wanted to see her again, that she didn't exist for him anymore. He would have had every right to say these things to her. She had prepared herself to be hurt as much as she had hurt him in the past.
Charlie stared at her for what seemed like forever. Then, he handed the little boy to his grandfather and stood up. She wasn't expecting what came next. He didn't say anything. He just took her in his arms to hug her close. She wasn't prepared for what crashed down on her at the same time. She felt like a little girl again. A little girl who had been through hell and who had missed her daddy for too long. She had missed her dad. No matter how much she'd denied it, it was the truth. She hated herself for never getting back in touch with him. She hated herself for spending six years without saying one word to him. She hated herself for leaving the way she did.
Bella hugged him back, not caring that they had an audience. Somewhere behind her, she could hear Jacob explaining what was going on to Tommy. She didn't need Charlie to say the words to know that she'd been forgiven. She didn't deserve it. They had so many things to talk about. She had so many things to apologize for. But she was just happy to be in her father's arms. He had never been one to express his feelings. They were both quite self-conscious. She couldn't even remember that they had ever hugged when she lived with him. She couldn't express how good it was to know her father wasn't mad at her. Being mad would probably come later. Right now, she didn't care.
She had the impression that the weight of her problems had been lifted off her shoulders. She felt like whatever would happen next, it wouldn't matter. It would be easy if she had her best friend and her father by her side. She decided there and then that she would never leave again. This was where she belonged. It had taken her six years to come to this conclusion. Better late than never.
"Welcome home, kiddo."
This is a one-shot, and I won't write more of it.
So... What did you think? Reviews? :)