Jacob stood in the woods and stared at the Cullen house. No one was there. Out for the pre-wedding celebrations, no doubt. His snout wrinkled in disgust at the thought. A wedding. An undead groom.
It made him sick to think about it.
Bella deserved better. She should have a human mate, he thought, puffing out his furry chest; pawing at the ground, feeling the damp dirt under his claws.
Why didn't she choose me? I deserve her. I earned her. She owes me. All that time I spent helping her out… she should have chosen me!
He sighed and turned to make his way back to his father's house. Fantasies ran through his mind; he would go to the wedding tomorrow. Once Bella saw him there, perhaps she would see what a mistake she was about to make. He saw himself bravely standing up to object – Bella rushing into his arms, tossing aside her bouquet. "Thank God you came, Jake," she would say, clinging to him. "You saved me again."
Yeah, right. Soft, mocking laughter rang through the trees. He whirled around, growling. Come out, you bloodsucker!
His snout twitched. No scent. It must be his imagination.
"Not quite," the voice lilted as a figure stepped from the trees. Tall, black hair, draped in white. Blue eyes peered at him from a beautiful androgynous face. "No… leeches here. Only a… benefactor; come to offer you a deal. A chance to gain your heart's desire." The creature smiled. "A deal I strongly advise you not to take."
He growled. The 'benefactor' raised a brow. "You should change into your human form, wolf. I can hear your thoughts, but I prefer to speak face to face." A flash of blue sailed through the air. "And put these pants on, please."
He blinked as the meaning of her – her? – words settled into his mind. A chance to gain your heart's desire. Grabbing the clothing with his teeth, he loped behind a tree, changing back into human form. Pulling the clothes on with trembling hands, he rushed back. There. She – she? - was still there.
"So eager," she – well, he might as well think of her that way – said coolly. "Always so quick to rush into folly. Well, that's your choice, I suppose."
"Who are you? What are you? What do you mean, a deal? What do you mean, you advise me-" He was cut off as she made a sharp gesture.
"Enough, wolf." Her voice was cold. "My name is not important. My breed is not your business. Let us simply say that I am another resident of the supernatural world. I am here to offer you a deal." She hesitated. "This is going to sound rather… unbelievable."
"I've seen a lot of unbelievable things," Jacob boasted. "I've fought vampires. I'm ready for anything."
She looked at him and shook her head sadly. "Here is the deal. You have three wishes. Every morning you will wake up with your wish granted. You will not remember the changes your wish has wrought to reality, so be careful what you say. At the end of the first wish, we will come back to this moment in time if you don't like the result. At that time, you can back out of the deal. The same rule applies for the second wish. But once you make the third wish; that's it. If your wish has gained you Bella – of her own free will – you win, and you are free. If not…" she shrugged. "You lose. Her and your freedom."
"Wishes?" he brightened.
She laughed, baring teeth that would do a bloodsucker proud. "Don't get any ideas, Jacob Black. There are rules. I cannot kill anyone, so don't expect me to destroy Edward Cullen. I cannot change someone's heart – so do not ask me to make Bella fall in love with you. And I cannot give you another wish. I can simply change a circumstance or two. Or three. But," her smile fell away," I advise you once more – do not take this deal."
Jacob ignored her words; his mind racing. This would be great! He laughed. Hell, he wasn't going to need three wishes; not when one would make everything the way it should have been. Perfect!
"I wish the Cullens had not come to Forks again." He stated firmly.
"You are certain of that?" The Creature tilted her head.
"Yes!" he snapped. She looked at him with… pity?
"Very well, then. The Cullens did not come to Forks again."
His world went black.
"Oh…" Jake rolled over. He felt like hell. What the-? Opening his eyes, he glared up at the ceiling – in his room at home.
Damn it. A dream. He'd had a dream; and today was the day Bella was going to marry that bloodsucker. With a snarl, he pushed back the covers and climbed out of bed. It had been so real – with a thud, he landed on the floor. Stunned, he pushed himself up. What was going on – he gasped as he stared at his hands. Those weren't his hands! Stumbling to his feet, he stared around his room. Everything was bigger! A sudden realization came to him and he rushed to the small mirror.
He was smaller; lighter, his hair long – I'm not a wolf anymore, he realized in shock. No, I was never a wolf. I wished the Cullens had never returned to Forks – so I never phased.
I'm not a wolf? He glared into the mirror, then relaxed. That wasn't bad news. No magic, no vampires; Bella would have no excuse not to be with him. Hell, she was probably waiting for him right now.
He dressed quickly, almost falling to the floor in his excitement. Be cool, he told himself. It's going to be perfect.
He remembered the cool voice. You will not remember the changed reality unless you decide to accept the consequences of the changes you wrought.
How long had he and Bella been going out? How – he shivered at the thought – far had they gone? Heat rushed through him as he envisioned Bella writhing underneath him, shouting in ecstasy, "You're a god, Jacob. No one else ever touch me but you!"
Damn it. He ran into the bathroom and turned the shower on cold.
Trotting down the hall at a more sedate pace, he oh-so-casually pulled out a glass, pouring himself some orange juice. "Hey, Dad." He looked around the kitchen, picturing the future when Bella would be there. Bella cooking dinner, washing the dishes, putting away the groceries… it would be great.
Of course, they wouldn't be able to marry until he was eighteen; two years from now. He frowned at the thought. He didn't like the idea of Bella off in college without him.
But surely he and Charlie had convinced Bella to attend junior college and get some kind of certification? Nursing or something.
After all, she wouldn't need a degree; she'd only be working a couple of years to save up some money for his garage until the babies started coming. Then she'd be at home where she belonged. She'd be too busy to think of anything else. He relaxed.
Billy sighed. Jake blinked; his fantasy fading. His dad looked… old. "So…" he trailed off. This was harder than it seemed, not knowing exactly what had happened the past year. He knew Bella was waiting for him but nothing else. What had happened to the rest of the Pack – no, the guys?
His father pushed away from the table. "I guess we'd better get to it, Jake. Charlie needs us."
Jake hid his triumphant smirk. Bella!
"Sure, Dad." He set the glass in the sink and followed his father outside.
"Oh! Hey!" he blinked in surprise. Sam Uley and Leah Clearwater strolled in the grass, holding hands. They stared at his stunned face.
"Problem, Black?" Leah laughed as they passed by; no malice in her voice. Of course. No vampires, no werewolves, no imprint.
Too bad. Emily was nicer – she cooked for you. Leah would just toss you a phone book and tell you to order pizza.
The phone rang inside. That would be Bella, wondering where he was. "I'll just get that, Dad." He ran inside and snatched up the phone. "Hello?"
"Jake," A warm voice – but not Bella. "Hey, what are you doing right now?" He frowned at the receiver. Kim? Jared's Kim? Duh. No imprint.
"Uh…" what to say, what to say… "I'm taking Dad to see Charlie."
Her voice went soft, with a tone he could not translate. "Of course. I'll call you later. Tell Charlie 'hi' for me. And be sure and tell him I'm sorry to hear about Tyler Crowley."
"Sure," he said absently. Call me? Why? Tyler Crowley?
"Jake!" his father's voice. He shrugged his shoulders and went outside, Kim forgotten. "Let's get you in the truck, Dad."
Humming under his breath, he drove towards Forks. Bella would be there. Waiting for him. He kept his face blank with an effort. He'd have to take his cues from her. Don't grab her. It's not necessary now that Edward Cullen's not part of the picture. Of course, Charlie…
"Here, Jake." His Dad's voice cut into his thoughts. "Pull over." Automatically, he obeyed, smiling at the idea that Charlie would be stern with him.
"What the…?" he stared at the building. The church? Why the hell was Charlie at church?
"Dad…" he followed his father as the older man rolled into the – graveyard. Charlie? A feeling of dread roiled in his gut. Had something happened to Charlie?
No. Charlie was there. He stood at the edge of the cemetery, head bowed and shoulders slumped wearily. His hair had gone almost entirely gray. Red-rimmed eyes met them. "Hi, Jake. Billy." He raised a bottle and took a deep gulp. The smell of beer wafted over to them; Charlie stank.
Unwillingly, Jake forced himself to step forward, a horrible suspicion threading into his mind. Standing next to Charlie, he looked down.
Beloved Daughter of Charlie Swan and Renee Dwyer
"I can't believe they're letting that damn Crowley kid out on appeal," Charlie slurred. "Bastard oughtta be in prison for life. He'd better not come back here, I tell you that. I still have my gun." He swayed.
"Jacob, grab him!" his father's voice came from far away as he remembered.
"Why're you so prejudiced, Billy!" Charlie roared. "The Cullens are good people! Carlisle's a great doctor – and that boy saved Bella's life!"
"No," he whispered. "No!" he yelled, as his father stared at him. "Take it back! Take it back now!"
"As you wish." He spun to face his tormentor, who smirked. "Well, you didn't think that out very well, did you?"
"Shut up," he snarled. "Bella's dead! You killed her! You said I couldn't ask you to kill Cullen but you killed her!"
"I did not kill Bella, Jacob Black," her being seemed to swell, "Your wish did that. You changed reality. Edward saved Bella's life that day, but thanks to you… he wasn't there." She shrugged. "But the wish has been cancelled. Everything is as it was. So… why don't you accept reality and call it quits before you make it worse."
He stood, breathing heavily. Call it quits? Hell no. His mind raced furiously. He just had to get rid of Cullen – before Bella could get involved and that redheaded leech could meet her.
His eyes were hard as he said, "I wish the Cullens had left Forks the day after he saved Bella."
Her eyes held pity and frustration. "As you wish."
"Oh…" he rolled over in his bed. That was a crazy – he snapped awake. No, not a dream. He looked at his hands. He was not a wolf.
And there would be no wedding today. Edward Cullen had saved Bella's life - and left it. Perfect. The leech had served a purpose for once.
Still… better safe than sorry. He dressed and slipped out the door. It was early; but Bella was an early riser. And if she was asleep, he'd just climb up the tree into her room. He smirked. Eat that, bloodsucker.
He made his way to the garage. Perhaps the motorcycle was there; it would be easier to get out that way.
Nope. No motorcycle. Well… letting the truck out of gear, he pushed it down the dirt drive, then started it up.
"Jacob!" he glanced in the mirror at the call and scowled. Kim. Again. What the hell did she want? Pressing on the gas, he sped out of La Push, watching her open-mouthed expression fade in the distance. What the hell was that all about?
Oh, well. Forgetting Kim, he stopped at a red light. No need to hurry now, surely. But… was that Sam? He stared. Crap. Sam was huge! And – yes, there was Emily. The two of them held hands as they walked towards the beach.
Leah must be hurt. And she doesn't even know why; if Sam was the only one who phased.
He shrugged. Well, that was her problem. Not his. He had Bella; nothing else mattered.
Whistling, he sped towards Forks.
Finally. He turned the corner on Charlie's street, frowning faintly at the sight of another car pulling in behind Bella's truck. Who the hell was that? Braking behind a van across the street, he stepped out and waited, eyes narrowed.
A tall man stepped out of the car, brown hair gleaming. What the - ? No, not Cullen. Who was that? A new cop at the station? He didn't look much older than…
Bella, who ran out of the house, face full of joy – and leapt into the man's arms. "Nate!" she gazed up at the tall man, laughing. "I knew you'd be here!"
Jacob doubled over. No… no! This was not happening! This could not be happening! Bella's supposed to be with me! She knows that! She has to know that!
"I have a gift for you." The guy – Nate, what kind of name is Nate? - handed her a bag. She accepted with a squeal of joy. "Those biographies you wanted. I special ordered them." His handsome face beamed down at her. "Another advantage to having a boyfriend who works in a bookstore."
Jacob hissed. Boyfriend? This was ridiculous. Where the hell had she met this – this wimp? College boy, he sneered. What the hell could Bella see in him? How could Charlie let this happen?
Bella turned the pages eagerly. "I can read these on the plane." Rising on tiptoe, she kissed him on the lips. Jake started forward, blood in his eye, freezing as Charlie came out of the house… smiling?
"Hey, Nate." He clapped the taller boy on the shoulder – the way he always did with Jake. "Thanks for offering us a ride to the airport." He beamed at his daughter. "My daughter, going to Dartmouth. Your Mom and I are so proud of you, Bells."
"Jake?" He spun at the call – Kim?
"What the hell do you want, Kim?" He turned back to stare at Bella and the – intruder. Bella and Charlie looked confused, Nate just looked faintly annoyed.
"What do I want?" Kim stared. "I want to know why my boyfriend bailed on our usual date to-" she indicated their position "-stalk some girl he had a crush on ages ago!"
Girlfriend? He gaped at her, then looked back at Bella, who had stopped at Kim's shriek. Her mouth fell open slightly as color rose in her face. A sudden gleam of pity – pity? - filled Charlie's eyes.
Nate just looked annoyed that his conversation with Bella and Charlie had been interrupted.
No. He started across the street, growling under his breath, ignoring Kim's screech of "Jake!"
Charlie grabbed him as he flew at the retreating Bella – why did she look so angry and scared? "Nate, get Bella inside." The younger man ducked as Jake swung at him – dammit, that would have taken college boy down if he'd been a wolf.
Shoving him against the police cruiser, Charlie held him easily. Tears of humiliation filled his eyes as he saw two neighbors come out and stare at the scene. The door slammed as Bella stepped inside, hand in Nate's.
"Jake," Charlie turned his attention back to him, "What the hell do you think you're doing? I thought you got over this? You have Kim…" he cut off as Kim jumped into her car and drove away.
He glared, eyes filled with anger. "Why are you doing this now? My daughter's on her way to college today, and she's probably not coming back to Forks any time soon. I'm not going to let you spoil this day. Nate and I are meeting Renee and Phil at the airport and we are all going to New Hampshire to help her settle in."
Jake glared at Charlie… why was he doing this?
"No…" he wailed, "Take it back, take it back!"
"As you wish." Gasping for breath, he glared hate at the creature.
"What the hell? What did you do to Bella?" He shouted. "You said you weren't allowed to make people fall in love!"
"I didn't. Again, all I did was change the circumstances. Edward saved Bella's life and left Forks – before she fell in love with him."
"Then why was she with him? That… whoever the hell he was?" Jake cried out.
"His name is Nate. He's a sophomore at Washington State. She met him in his father's bookstore a week after the Cullen's left Washington. They've been dating ever since." She smiled. "They have a lot in common. As do you and Kim."
"But… why him? Why not me!" Jake cried out.
"Because Edward Cullen never broke her heart." His tormenter said coolly. "She never talked with you on the beach about the old legends that day, because he was long gone. She never needed your shoulder to cry on; because she was never depressed and broken. She never brought you the motorcycles and bonded with you over speed and adrenaline; she didn't need to. Don't you realize," She leaned forward, speaking earnestly, "your entire relationship with Bella was based on her depression and heartbreak – and your opportunism?"
"No," Jake shook his head desperately. "No! She was supposed to be with me! In a human world! She said so!"
"No, Jacob," patiently, "You said so. Yes, she agreed. She may have even believed it for a little while; believed the idea that pity and gratitude could be substituted for love. After all, she felt so responsible for you. You made certain of that."
"Pity? Gratitude? What are you talking about? I never wanted her pity!" Jake shouted.
"Then why did you spend so much time trying to provoke it?" The creature was merciless. "Every word you said, every sad, pitiable look was meant to incite sympathy from her. You and her father; you never let up on how much she owed you. How sad you were. How much you needed her friendship. You made her feel guilty for leading you on – but you knew her weakness. You knew the utter horror she had of hurting your feelings."
Jacob stared numbly as she went on, "The truth is; your friendship was never real on either side. She used you to help her out of her soul-breaking depression – and you used her depression because you thought it would bind her to you."
"You don't understand anything," Jake finally said. "I'm making the last wish."
She tilted her head. "You do understand; if you make this wish - there's no going back. Once you say the words, the consequences are irrevocable. Last chance. Back away. Kim will forgive you if you ask her to; she made quite a few mistakes with Jared."
His eyes were cold. "I wish that I imprinted on Bella when I became a wolf." His opponent started. "I'm not asking to make someone fall in love. Imprinting is magic. You can do magic."
He smiled at her smugly. "I win."
"Jake…" Bella's voice was soft. Triumph filled him. He'd done it! Perfect! Why didn't I think of this in the first place? Now that he had imprinted, Bella would never leave him. Edward Cullen had broken her heart; he'd fixed it. He'd won. He'd beaten his enemy, and now he would go claim his prize.
Rising to his feet, he turned. Where was he? He stared at the trees and grass. This was the clearing where they'd fought Victoria and her army. The clearing where that bloodsucker had decapitated the crazy bitch. Or, maybe he'd done it this time.
"Bella…" Jake froze. What the hell was he doing here?
"I'm glad we came here, Edward. I had to say goodbye." Her beautiful brown eyes filled with sadness.
Goodbye. Jake relaxed. Of course. She was giving his enemy a last farewell. Well, he could afford to be generous to the leech. The bastard had lost. He strolled towards them, trying to keep the smirk off his lips. Bella wouldn't like it if he gloated.
His thoughts, however… I win, Cullen. How do you like it? I'm going to take Bella home and give her everything you never could.
No reaction from the leech. Did you hear me? I said, she's mine! Suck that!
"It's so strange, Edward…" Bella's eyes were full of emotion – Jacob shifted; really, Bella was going to give the leech the wrong idea if she kept looking at him like that. He stepped forward. "To think that Jacob brought you back to me. That he brought us back together. We wouldn't be getting married today if he hadn't helped us."
Jacob froze in mid-step. What?
Edward cupped Bella's chin. "I know. If he hadn't tracked me down in South America to tell me you needed me… if he hadn't insisted on altering the treaty so I can change you… it might have gotten messy."
What? He tried to speak, but his vocal cords wouldn't work. What the hell? I imprinted on her! Why would I track you down… why would I ever ask Sam to alter the treaty?
Like a nightmare, his words to Bella echoed. "The wolf will be whatever the imprintee wants them to be. He doesn't have to be a lover. He can be a friend. A brother. Anything. It's up to the imprintee, not the imprinter. But why would anyone reject a love like that?"
Because she already had a love she couldn't be without, Jacob. He turned. Blue eyes looked at him. I did warn you. You should have remembered your own legends before you made your final wish. He struggled.
Why aren't they looking at me? His mind begged.
Her gaze filled with pity – and triumph. They are, Jacob.
His gaze turned back to Bella… kneeling on the ground. She set flowers gently beside a flat stone.
"And in the end…" Bella said wistfully, "He threw himself in front of Victoria to save your life." Edward held her tightly as she wrapped her arms around him.
Sam's words came to him as the world began to blur around the edges. The imprintee becomes the center of the universe for the wolf. He will do anything to make her happy. He will give her anything she needs.
No… the grip on Jacob tightened painfully. "Time to go, Jacob. We made a deal…"
He stared at Bella as the world went black.