Author Notes: This is a one shot that I wrote to flex my fanfic skills after having taken a break. I'm currently in the middle of a different multi-chap story, but don't know when I'll be able to get through it (view my profile for more info on that). Aside from that, I just needed a good little one shot to get myself back into the fanfic mode. It's not very long, but it's just an idea I played around with for Jacob during Breaking Dawn. I hope you enjoy. =)
I trail the contours of her body with a well-calloused hand, pretending that I'm trekking the familiar roads and curves, soft dips and swells, of someone else. I know this body like my own, could locate the exact placement of the scar on the inside of her right arm, and could sketch it in perfect detail. I revisit that scar again and again, because it's the only imperfection that sets her apart from the woman I really love. When I close my eyes, she could be anyone, so long as my fingers don't trace over the puckered skin.
When I roll onto my back, I can lift my hands just far enough away from my face to see them. The blinds are closed, but the bulb of the street light outside rests against them. The milky wash of light casts just enough of a glow on my skin in the darkness. These hands are the source of her imperfection. Looking at them now, I can recognize them as being separate from me—not who I really am.
If you want me to be her, I'll be her, she says. Just do it.
The imprint snaps taut like a leash, and I recoil, but not before I leave that scar on her arm—a replica scar that belongs on another woman's arm.
And when she screams, it breaks me into a thousand pieces. When she slumps to the floor, holding her arm—the blood seeping through the cracks between her fingers—I know true agony. If she feels pain, I know the misery of dying.
And for what have I damaged her perfect skin? A few moments of bliss in darkness if I can just reach that interior place in my mind that blurs reality? I've hurt the woman that would do anything to please me, to make me love her. Though her existence wasn't even teetering in the balance when the original scar first damaged the skin.
And my whole life has existed as one long-suffering heartbreak. Loving only to be forsaken. I have always suffered as the dying suffer—agonizingly close to an oblivion that I can't reach.
I will always remember strawberry-scented hair, eyes like earth—warm, comforting, something to anchor to. Pale skin so easily broken, riddled with scars and reoccurring bruises, bones that have broken—mended. A young body that has known the grief of an older one, but a body with a heartbeat, nonetheless. A heartbeat I could mime—centuries of listening to it beat. And maybe I even know how warm she is—how long it took my body against hers in the cold to keep her from freezing to death, to bring back the sun-kissed glow to her cheeks.
And maybe I knew what dying was on her wedding day, only to suffer rebirth and fresh agony in the woods behind the Cullen house. Only to discover a different, fleeting warmth as another heartbeat faded into silence.
His heart was caving in to the cavity that had yawned open inside his chest. He wanted to let it fall into that bottomless-looking oblivion before it exploded, before heart matter and pain coated his insides.
Bella married. Bella dead.
And he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, seen the corpse stretched out before him—sunken, deathly pale, and hollow. Hollow for all that lost blood, for all those broken ribs. Jesus, she was a rag doll. His Bella.
Even though she'd never wanted him. Even though he'd never been good enough. He stumbled off the steps of Bella's new home—her last home, her final home. Only the real, living earth beneath his feet could hold him up, even if the grass seemed to be growing around him, shooting its thin stalks straight up to his shoulders, tangling around him, begging him to cave.
To just cave to that horrible need to sprawl where he fell, to sink straight down into the earth and disappear before the pain could overtake him, before he'd find the sense to cry.
But he ran until the trees grew together behind him, until he couldn't see the Cullen house, couldn't smell Bella's death every time he tried to raggedly inhale—choking on stale air.
When the silence was complete, he stopped, leaning heavily against a tree, knowing, almost at once, that he hadn't outrun everyone. He smelled her even as he turned his face toward the tree, inhaling the scent of bark, trying to discern what was real now that Bella was dead. Was anything real? Had anything else existed outside of her.
"So this is it? You're just going to die out here?"
Jacob stiffened, closing his eyes against Leah as she sidestepped into his view. He couldn't imagine how she'd known where to find him, let alone what he was thinking while he existed outside of the wolf. She must have followed him, she must have been a good guesser. Or maybe she was just that well-accustomed to grief and the responses it triggered.
Something was burning his throat. He opened his eyes and focused on Leah in an attempt to ignore it. He'd rather howl in rage than break to the idiot's tears that were forcing their way up. He needed to find his anger. He needed it to balance himself.
"That makes it worth giving up?"
He gritted his teeth. "You don't understand."
She snorted—a vision of angry disbelief. He supposed, having been subject to her wolf-thoughts for more than his fair share of time—he should have given her credit. She'd taken the course on grief before, and she was several decades ahead of him. At least—she seemed to have arrived at anger, and that was a level above him. Anger was safe and less painful. It muted the tones of everything else.
"No, I don't understand how you fell in love with her, how you could let yourself be taken this far. Why didn't you turn back a long time ago? It wasn't as if she didn't make her intentions clear about—"
"I'm aware," he cut in, stifling a fresh ripple of pain. "I've always been aware. Maybe imprinting isn't the worst thing out there."
He watched her search his face, her eyes skimming over fresh lines. Any time she ever looked at anyone, he thought she must be measuring them. Her lips always seemed to purse with derision—no one ever seemed to measure up. Jacob felt weighted and sunken—wanted solitude and nothing more.
"Then tell me what made her so special. Because she was wounded and needy? Anyone can be broken, Jacob. Anyone can be scarred."
He winced, drawing back sharply as Leah took her fingernails to her wrist, self-inflicting a wound deep enough to already rumor a scar. Was she crazy? She waved her wrist at him, fanning the blood scent thickly into the air. Jacob felt his stomach turn, envisioning pools of Bella's blood on a tile floor—an empty carcass on a cold, silver bed.
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
He stepped forward, catching her by the elbow.
And her mouth fell onto his lips, triggering a blaze that consumed him—ferocious, surprising. Something he had never expected. Leah? She had never been his, could never be his. Worlds apart. Hadn't she noticed the gaping chasm that had always divided the ground between them? She suffered, seethed. He had still clung to the foolhardy hope that love could overcome his last great obstacle: Edward Cullen.
And still his hands were on her—tearing her shirt, ripping it straight up to the collar and through. And his hands cupped the breasts that were bare there as her arms wound their way around his neck. Nothing felt foreign, nothing out of bounds. Whatever Leah had been to him dissolved in a haze of heat that rose rapidly enough to burn it away before he noticed.
Why hadn't he ever noticed her? Why hadn't he ever considered touching her, tasting her. Tipping her head back so that his tongue could explore the contours of the inside of her mouth, so that his teeth could nurse her bottom lip for a few glorious seconds as thoughts of death blew away hard on the wind that had picked up through the trees.
And that was all he knew of suffering under the hands that kneaded his stomach, worked loose his pants—thinking he might exist now as more wolf than man as nothing but primitive need overtook him.
He could read her thoughts without really reading them: Maybe this was real imprinting, the joining of two souls that had suffered similarly, that bonded together in misery to keep from disappearing.
Later—much later—when he left the woods, he left the way he'd come—craving, without knowing why, the solace of checking one last time to see if Bella was gone. He needed to know how many pieces of himself were broken now. And it was the shortest part of his story—this part—as it seemed to happen so fast, so irrevocably, and maybe it was made to be the shortest, because it was the least easy to relive.
He went back to the house like a coffin, pushing open a door that felt too heavy—as if a long-inhaled breath had been exhaled against the other side—stepping into the lair of the living dead. He followed strange sounds of relief and joy, followed what sounded distinctly like a baby's gurgle.
Jacob stepped into the living room to feel his feet leave the ground—feeling his whole world unravel and piece back together with stunning, echoing finality. Thoughts of Leah—of a kindred spirit that could save him—were chained into an unforgiving darkness that rose full and absolute.
Let me go, I want to say, but there's nothing she can do.
"You suffer for my mother."
No, no, I suffer for another—another I'll never be able to name. Emerging from the woods after a short-lived time together to witness yet another birth and misery. A name I never had the chance to speak of before the imprint had tied me tight, before any other name spoken from my lips would be blasphemy. So I'll take Leah's name to my grave, when life finally relinquishes me, when death offers me pity.
How long I have yearned for pity.
I hold a body that could be any body against me. I hold it and imagine that it is not Renesmee. I hold it and close my eyes and speak the words that only she can sense inside of my head.
"I love her."
But her gentle intrusions will never touch a face or name, will never see behind the imprint, only the longing that exists. A longing that shouldn't exist by any rule, but does.
"I know. Close your eyes."