This is the first of my advent fics – I'm aiming to post one a day up until Christmas, but I'm not sure how successful that plan's going to be yet, so don't rely on a regular posting schedule. Anyway, here's the first story for the 1st December.
I hope you enjoy it (especially as Jacob's not someone I've written a lot in the past). Thank you to the lovely sunray16 who beta'd this for me. As always, I own nothing except for the twisted inner workings of my mind.
Thanks for reading.
I put the phone down dejectedly, my fingers lingering on the handset as if any moment now Seth would call me back with good news if only I kept hanging on. I knew how unlikely that was though; if Jacob had managed to avoid coming back home for the last two months then it was highly doubtful that he would suddenly change his mind in the next five minutes. I still hoped though, still prayed that every time I picked up the phone to call the Clearwaters' house for an update that the news would be different.
It never was.
The lack of communication from Jacob was beginning to get to me. We hadn't had this long a period of not speaking since he had first phased and Sam had ordered him to cut all contact and it was beginning to make me feel twitchy.
And of course, anything that made me feel twitchy was equally as bad for Edward. He tried to understand this longing I had to see my best friend, the deeply unsettling feeling that rested in the pit of my stomach when Jacob and I were on outs with each other, but I could see that he didn't really get it. He couldn't understand why it was so important for me to have Jake around, to not be arguing with him. He was sympathetic, sure, but he took the viewpoint that if I was going to marry him and be changed within the next year, then I should accept the fact that Jacob and I would never be able to go back to how we had been before, when he was... away.
Even I couldn't fully explain why I needed him so badly that when he disappeared, like now, an itch began under my skin letting my body know that it was missing something.
And of course, even if I could explain it, it wasn't fair that I did. Edward loved me, he wanted to marry me, and I had made my choice. It wasn't good for either of us to dwell on what my other option could have been.
I forced myself to finally let go of the phone and deliberately turned my back on it, resisting the urge to call Seth back for another update.
Shaking my head, I attempted to put Jake's disappearance out of my mind and concentrate on making dinner for Charlie. It was a quiet affair; neither of us were really big talkers and he had picked up on my morose mood when he came home earlier.
Once we were done, he got up from the table and grabbed a beer from the fridge.
I glanced up at him, surprised to notice that I had been sitting staring blankly at my food for the last ten minutes.
"You alright there?"
I stood up fast, wincing as the back of my leg caught the edge of the chair. "I'm fine. Sorry," I apologised, "my mind's just really not with it today." I gestured towards the can he held in his hand. "Go and watch the game. I'll just clean up here and then I think I'll head up to bed early."
Charlie frowned, the look on his face reminiscent of how it had appeared during my zombie phase, straight after Edward had left me. "You don't have to do that."
I smiled at him, but I was afraid that it came off as more of a grimace. "It's fine, dad."
"No." He put his foot down. "You cooked, therefore I think I can handle a bit of soap and water." He ran his hand across his mouth. "What are you doing this evening? Hanging out with Alice...or Edward tonight?"
I shrugged. "I've got no plans to."
"Well how about you just relax tonight? Come watch the game with me or have a bath or read your letter or something."
I smiled that time, at Charlie's idea of relaxing, before something he said registered with me.
"Oh, yeah." He disappeared into the living room for a minute before coming back, a white envelope in his hand. "I thought you'd seen this already. It came for you this morning, no return address. You know anybody up Vancouver way?"
"No." I frowned as I took it off him. "No clue."
Only when I looked at the envelope, I realised that actually I did have a clue. The name and address on the front were printed out neatly, but the handwriting was recognisable...probably because I had spent weeks staring at the writing on another letter he had written me that now seemed so long ago.
Charlie was still watching me as I stared in growing excitement at the letter and I blushed at his careful scrutiny.
"Yeah, I think I might go and read this if you're good to clean?"
My father smirked and I realised that he wasn't so clueless about the letter's writer as he pretended to be. "No worries, Bells."
I sprinted up the stairs, nearly falling over at the top and ran into my room, locking the door behind me. It was only when I was sat down comfortably on my bed that my movements slowed. I slid my fingers under the edge of the envelope carefully, even though there were no vampires around, I wanted to avoid any more paper-cuts if I could. Several sheets of paper fell out when it was open and I snatched them up eagerly, scouring them for an address, for any clue that might tell me where in Vancouver Jake was, or if he had just passed through there to post the letter.
There was no hint though and pouting, I sat back, propping myself against the pillows to read the whole thing.
I don't know why I'm bothering writing this. Kathleen says it'll help me to put my feelings down on paper and send them to you, but I can't see it making much difference. You've already made your choice. She thinks I should try one last time though, even if I know you're just going to ignore this and marry the bloodsucker anyway. I'm in Vancouver at the moment, although I don't know how long I'm going to stay here. Kathleen's putting me up in the apartment above her cafe. If I was going to be mean about it, I'd tell you that I'd finally moved on, like you always wanted and imprinted on her just to make you jealous (because I know you'd be jealous if you wouldn't admit it to yourself), but I haven't. So fear not, Kathleen's seventy-four years old and I saved her from leech who was trying to snack on her. She knows that I'm a wolf, but it doesn't bother her, and so she's let me stay for a while until I can get you out of my head. My heart, pathetically, still belongs to you.
Anyway, her husband died a while back of cancer so she knows all about losing the one you love. She told me that if she'd known that they weren't going to be together much longer that there were so many things that she'd want to tell him, so many regrets that she had of things they never got to do and so much that she wanted to apologise to him for, even for stupid stuff like arguments they had years ago. I couldn't tell her everything about us, of course, but she knows that I'm losing you, whether to Edward or to becoming a leech, and so she convinced me to write this, to tell you how I feel...especially 'cos every time I try to talk to you about it we just end up yelling at each other.
So, Bella, I love you.
I've told you that before, but I was never really sure if you believed me, not completely anyway, especially after what he did when he left you like that. It's not a new thing either. I mean, I've loved you for most of the last two, but even before that you were always there. Whenever you would come down in the summers with Charlie when you lived with your mom, I was always there. You were strange and small and pale and you would always have your head buried in a book, but I just adored you. My dad would always laugh at me because I'd spend all of those two weeks that you were in Forks complaining that you weren't down in La Push often enough; and when you were there, I followed you around like a shadow.
You were really nice though, even when I couldn't keep up with all of you, you'd still let me tag along with you and Rach and Becky, and unlike them, you never told me to go away because I was a nuisance. I knew that you didn't really like Forks, you always hated it when it rained, but you loved Charlie and I always looked forward to you visiting. I sulked for days the year that Dad told me that you and Charlie were holidaying in California instead of coming here.
I was so happy when Charlie said you were coming back to Forks to live for the end of school and I couldn't believe my luck when you ended up down at First Beach. Only then, you were all grown up. You still blushed, I remembered that from before, but you seemed brighter somehow, still quiet, but bolder, like you wouldn't take anyone's crap anymore. And yeah, my hormones kicked in and I developed a bit of a crush on you. I know you only flirted with me that day to get me to spill those stories about your beloved Cullens, I wasn't so stupid that I thought you really wanted me, but I knew that you liked me, and I could work with that.
That's always been your problem, you know. You've never been able to look past Cullen long enough to realise that you can like other people, love other people, at the same time as loving him. It's like you're blind to everything else around you if he's in front of you, or you can't accept that maybe the world doesn't revolve around him after all and there are other people in your life who care and who you should care about. And as dumb and blind to the truth as I can be, I'm not just talking about myself.
Do you know how angry I was with you when he left? I mean, sure, didn't know that he was a vampire or anything. I just thought he was a jerk who left you alone in the woods to catch hypothermia. But it was like you couldn't see how much everyone else loved you and wanted you to get better again. Your dad, my dad, your mom (I met her when she came down to help out)...me. I knew I shouldn't have helped you with those bikes, but I wanted you to get better so badly and you were happier when you were with me. I could make you happy, and the more time I spent with you, the more I liked you.
I liked the way you pretended that you were older than me and that you always pretended to be responsible and tried to get us to do our homework together. I liked the way you so excited about riding the bikes and that you never blamed me when we always ended up in the ER. I liked that you weren't bothered that we just hung out at our houses or in the garage half the time and that you didn't fuss about stupid stuff like other girls. I liked that you were the coolest girl that I knew and that you wanted to spend time with me, instead of any of your friends in Forks. I liked the way you never made me feel stupid and I liked the way you got all flustered when I gave you those Love Hearts for Valentine's. I knew then that you liked me too – I don't think you would've invited me to go to the movies with you that time unless you did.
I thought it was still just a crush that I had until I had to stay away when I first phased. Being away from you, that's when I knew that I loved. You were the only thing I could think of, the only thing I could focus on and I wanted to get to you and tell you the truth of why I was staying away so badly. I didn't think I could adore you any more than when you told me that you didn't care that I was a wolf. I kept expecting you to run away screaming, but instead you were more worried about me getting hurt than worrying about yourself. And I knew then that if I just gave you time, if I let you have your space and work it all out in your head, that you would eventually see me as I saw you.
You did. Eventually. It was too late by that point though. He was already back and had already gotten his teeth into you. It hurt so much that you would just go back to him like that. That you would so easily forget what he had done to you. You completely forgot me too. He was obviously more important to you. It was easier for me just to stay away. It's not like you wanted to come back down to visit me anyway, not when you had him hanging around you all the time. You changed as well when he came back. You laughed less and you looked more worried all the time. Christ, Bella, he even got the psychic to kidnap you so you couldn't come and see, locked you away in that stupidly large house of is.
And you let him. You didn't joke or argue or fight anymore. You just rolled over. You were nothing like the independent, strong girl that I fell in love with, but it was too late by that point. I'm always too late when it comes to you, Bella.
I know I didn't always behave nicely either, but to have to fight against someone for you, to fight against him, it was just too much. You know me. I had to use all the dirty tricks I could think of to get you to admit your feelings for me. I'm not smart like he is. I don't have a fast car or loads of money. I can't promise to take you around the world at the drop of a hat. I can't pay bribes to Ivy League schools to get you in. The only thing I had going for me was that unlike Cullen, I can be killed. I know I shouldn't have played on that up on that mountain, but I got you to admit that you loved me and I got you to kiss me. You have no idea, Bella, how much that meant to me.
You have no idea how much you mean to me.
It's all pointless anyway. You're marrying him and you're going to be dead in a few months time and if you ever come back to Forks, I'm going to have to tear you to pieces because you could be a danger to the tribe and Sam will make me even if I don't want to.
So there it is. I love you so much. And because I love you, I can't stay there and watch you just throw your life away for him. Don't expect me to get over you though. Don't make the decision for me like he did for you, leaving and then expecting me to get over you eventually.
You're it for me, Bella Swan, for as long as I live.
Maybe even after your heart stops beating.
My hands were shaking as I traced the last line of the letter. It wasn't until a tear landed on the bottom of the letter, making the ink run slightly, that I realised I was crying.
He hadn't signed his name, but then I didn't need a signature to know who it was. The letter was so typically Jacob that I could almost him speaking the words aloud as I read it. He wrote about me and Edward with the same measure of scorn and despair that his voice always held on those rare occasions where we discussed my relationship
I reread the letter and my tears fell harder.
I hated this, hated the pain I had caused him, hated how messed up everything had become where he felt that he had to run away to Vancouver to protect himself from me. I hated how much I missed him, even though I had made my decision and that decision was Edward.
Most of all I hated how right he was, how he knew better than even Edward, how I had to fight so hard not to run after him because being with him was so easy.
I missed my best friend. I missed the boy I loved.
I curled into myself as regret and hysteria began to take over, my hand clutching my shirt as my chest grew tighter and I struggled to breathe.
I gasped, springing up at the sound of my name. Edward stood on the other side of the bedroom, his fists clenched, his body tensed. His face was tormented, deep lines of sorrow marring his beautiful face. I hurriedly wiped my own face, trying in vain to disguise any sign of my distress. His eyes darted down to where I still clutched Jacob's letter and I slid my hand behind my back, trying futilely to hide it.
"You miss him."
It was a statement, not a question, but I nodded miserably anyway, ashamed of my reaction when I had everything I wanted in front of my in this beautiful boy who I was going to marry.
Edward walked slowly towards me and carefully took my free hand, pressing a kiss to the palm before lowering it between us.
He paused and then he said the six words that everyone dreads hearing.
"I think we need to talk."
I finished wiping the tables and chucked the dishcloth behind the counter that ran along one length of the coffee shop. Kathleen had tried to protest against me closing up, but I had argued that I was perfectly capable of cleaning everything and preparing for the next day's work without her help. She didn't need to be running around this late in the evening anyway, and it wasn't like the effort cost me anything.
I had been here for three weeks and I knew that soon I would have to move on, either back home or back into the wilderness. It was purely by accident that I had ended up human here in Vancouver, and as much as I thought Kathleen was really cool for not being freaked out about the wolf thing and for letting me stay here until I got my head straight, I knew this wasn't a permanent stop.
Heading to the back of the shop, I switched the main lights off just as the bell over the top of the door announced someone's arrival.
"We're closed," I called out. I paused in my actions as the tinkling sound of the hapless customer leaving didn't come. Instead, my body went on high alert as the sound of fast breathing reached my ears and I prepared to defend Kathleen's business if need be.
As I inhaled though, I caught a familiar scent, and, unbidden, my feet took me around the corner of the counter. I needed to see what me senses were telling me.
Her eyes widened as I came into sight, her expression wavering between smiling and crying. She was still beautiful, despite the weight that she had lost since the last time I had seen her (she always did have a nasty habit of not eating when she was upset), and I couldn't help being drawn to her, a moth to a flame, like I always was, until we were stood toe to toe.
She had read the letter. She must have. There was no other explanation for her being here, and the little spark of hope in my chest began to flicker again.