The Worth of a Soul

By Lady of Spain

Disclaimer. S. Meyer owns Twilight. Warning: Sensitive subject of surgical sarring, and body image.

"Bells, I can't find my car keys. I'm gonna be late for work."

"Did you look in Aaron's room?" she yelled from the kitchen. "I think I saw him with them earlier. And for goodness sake, why don't you put them up where he can't reach them?"

"'Cuz, then he'd climb up, grab the keys and bust his head open trying to climb back down again. That's why."

Jacob walked into the bedroom and smiled at the little guy. "Where did you put Daddy's keys, Aaron?"

The three year old threw a wooden block at his father, and giggled. Jacob crouched down, and took the child's face in his hands. "Look at Daddy, Aaron. Show me where you put the keys."

Aaron poked him in the eye. "No!"

Rubbing his injured eye, Jacob whined, "Oh, c'mon. Daddy needs his keys; now where are they?"

Blinking innocently, the boy shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know."

Frustrated, Jacob stood up. He shook his finger at his recalcitrant son, and spouted, "I hope someday you have a kid just like you. Revenge will be so sweet. I'll get the last laugh."

"Did you find them?" Bella asked as she stood at the doorway.

"Sure, sure. I found the Holy Grail while I was at it too. Where is that extra set?"

Bella leaned against the door jamb, and smiled knowingly. "They're in the middle drawer of the dresser, under my tank tops."

She entered the room and picked up Aaron, rubbing her nose along his. "Aaron Ephraim, you are such a naughty boy, just like your daddy, aren't you? Come on; let's go join sissy and your brother before they eat all the pancakes."

Being a typical male, Jacob had to practically tear the drawer apart looking for them. It took him a while, but not before he found an envelope from the La Push clinic addressed to Bella. Hmm, he wondered what that was all about, but he'd peek at it later. He put everything back in its place, and with the keys jangling in his hand, he sauntered down the hall.

"Hey, honey, I'm leaving. How 'bout a smooch to launch me."

Bella ran down the hall, breathless, and on her tippee-toes, laid a smacker on him.

Jacob raised his eyebrows. "Mmn, nice—pancake syrup." He licked his lips sensuously. "Hey, put the bottle on the nightstand for later on tonight." He winked at her mischievously, then, whistling, he strutted out the door to his car.

Later that week, while making love to his beautiful wife, Bella began to cry, for no apparent reason it seemed. His hand had been fondling her breast when the tears started. That was not the reaction he usually got. Something was wrong.

"I'm sorry, honey. Did I hurt you?" he murmured.

"No, it's just . . . I love you, Jake."

"I love you too, sweetheart." What was this all about? It was making him extremely nervous.

Their lovemaking continued, but afterwards as Jacob was starting to drift off to sleep, he heard her softly crying again. He put his arms around her, drawing her closer. "What is it, Bells?" he whispered, nuzzling her ear. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"

Bella's answer had him worried. "It's nothing. I'm just being stupid." She was never a good liar, and he could tell she was lying to him now. What was she hiding from him? With his mind churning with every conceivable reason for her strange behavior, he finally fell into an uneasy sleep. The last thought in his head was, Maybe she's pregnant; that always makes her emotional.

A couple of weeks rolled by, and Bella still hadn't confided in him. She seemed distant, or somehow preoccupied. It was against his nature, but he let it alone, thinking she'd talk to him when the time was right. He even forgot all about the curious envelope in Bella's drawer, until one day when his keys went missing again. This time, he had placed them absentmindedly on the washing machine in the laundry room. Bella found them in the nick of time, but it jogged his mind back to the day when he found that note. Why hadn't Bella said anything to him about it, and why was it hidden away in the dresser? Tomorrow was Saturday. Bella had said something about grocery shopping. He decided he would stay home with the kids, and incidentally go through that drawer. He was not one to snoop, but this was preying on his mind. He had to find out what had her in such a tailspin, and he had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with the piece of paper inside that freakin' envelope.

Jacob was with their son,Liam, immersed in the daunting task of supervising the cleanup of his room. As usual, the room was a complete disaster. He was on his knees retrieving junk from underneath the bed, when Bella came walking by.

"Jake, I'm leaving," Bella said as she stood in the doorway. "Anything you want added to the grocery list?"

"Sure, sure," he answered, smiling. "How about some chocolate kisses?"

"Chocolate kisses," she repeated, writing it on her list.

"How 'bout some real kisses," he bellowed. Jacob stood up, and tackling her, pressed his lips to hers like he meant it—like he really, really meant it.

Looking up from his disarrayed closet, Liam whined, "Eww! Daddy, that is so gross."

Bella pulled away from him stiffly, an unreadable expression on her face. Her body language was unmistakable though. She was withdrawing from him, and Jacob was beginning to feel hurt. Didn't she welcome his advances anymore? Jake and Bells—they had always been so comfortable around each other. When did things start to get so awkward between them?

When he was sure her car left the driveway, he ran to their bedroom and rummaged through the dresser drawer. He found the envelope, along with a second one, this one from a surgeon's office, postmarked three weeks ago.

He hurriedly read the contents of the clinic notice. It basically said the mammogram and ultrasound of her left breast were abnormal. A suspicious area was identified and they gave her a referral to see a surgeon for a needle biopsy. The surgical report confirmed the site was indeed malignant and she should make an appointment to see the surgeon again as soon as possible.

Jacob dropped onto the bed, stunned. Not his Bella. This was some kind of cruel joke. She was only thirty two years old for crying out loud. The evidence however was there in black and white, staring him in the face. He read the notices for the second time, hoping the words would somehow be different. But the words abnormal and malignant jumped off the page at him. All of a sudden, he felt cold. His breath was trapped inside his lungs, and his heart seized in fear. My god, he couldn't lose her, not yet.

He had fought for her so hard, and had won—against Laurent, Victoria, and Edward. He even saved her from herself, when she was drowning in depression and later when she nearly drowned in the depths of the sea. No—dammit, he would not lose her to cancer.

Bella came home an hour later, and began putting the perishables away. Carlie, their oldest, came into the kitchen to help her.

"Where's your dad?" Bella asked.

"He's upstairs in your bedroom. He's in there crying. Why is he doing that, Mom?"

Suddenly alert, Bella put the box of cereal she was holding on the counter. "I don't know, sweetheart. I'll go find out. Can you put the rest of this stuff away?"

Running up the stairs, she found Jacob sitting on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. Two white envelopes and their contents lay across his lap. As she entered the room, his head sprang up and turned in her direction. His normally warm dark eyes were red and glistening with tears.

Bella was at a loss for words. The first thing to pop out of her mouth was: "How did you find those?"

"The day Aaron hid my keys, I saw the notice in your drawer." He wiped away a tear with the back of his hand. "Tell me something, Bells. When were you gonna let me know? Another week from now . . . a year . . . on your deathbed?"

With her head hanging, she replied, "I couldn't tell you . . . I just couldn't. I . . . I didn't know what to do."

Anger was beginning to well up in his chest. His voice was still thick with tears. "Didn't know what to do—didn't know what to do? You talk to me, Bella—that's what you do!"

Bella straightened, shaking her head. "What is there to say? I'm not letting that surgeon cut off my breast."

Now he was really pissed. "Whaaaat? You haven't made that appointment yet? What's goin' on in that brain of yours?"

"What do you think? Don't you understand? My breast will be gone. I'll feel like half a woman; a butchered piece of meat. I'm afraid you won't want me anymore, Jake!"

"My god, Bella, do you think so little of me?" The tears were streaming down his face now. He managed to choke out, "I didn't marry a perfect pair of breasts; I married you. There is so much more to you than two mounds of flesh, topped with a couple of pink nipples. I love you—all of you."

He reached out one long arm and grasped her hand, drawing her to sit beside him on the bed. "Let me ask you something. Did you ever stop to consider what this would do to the kids? I lost my mother when I was six years old." He hesitated, the words sticking in his throat. "I've never gotten over that. Aaron is only three; he needs his mother. All the kids need you. I need you. This involves our whole family. This isn't just about you anymore. Don't you see that?"

Jacob ran a hand along his brow, thinking of his next pleading argument. "Look, if I lost a leg, would you still love me?"

He squeezed her hand as she admitted. "You know I would."

"Well, there's your answer, then." His voice cracked as he continued. "You promised to love me always. You promised not to leave me. I fought off Vampires to win your love. I'm telling you, Bells, nothing's gonna take you away from me, not even the big C. I won't let that happen."

Bella's breath hitched, as she tried desperately to hold back her own tears. "You may change your mind when the chemotherapy makes all my hair fall out."

"You'll still be beautiful in my eyes—bald and beautiful. I'll buy you a wig, and I'll shave my head," he groaned. "Hell, I'll even shave the kids' heads—well, maybe not Carlie."

A very small hint of a smile graced her lips. "You'd have to go wolf, and chase her down. She'd probably put up quite a fight."

"Yeah, she's stubborn like that—just like her mother."

Jacob wrapped a brawny arm around Bella's shoulders, squeezing her against himself. "So, are we good now? You understand how I feel about this? Kwop kilawtley, Bells—always."

"I'm sorry, Jake. I'm so, so sorry."

"I know, honey, but please . . . I don't ever want you to be afraid to talk to me again."

He lifted her from the bed, hugging her in a tight embrace. Their lips met in bittersweet throes of passion. He whispered in her ear, "Are the kids okay? Do we have time for a quickie?" He smiled at her through his tears.

"Sure, sure," she responded without hesitation. "Carlie's downstairs; she'll watch Aaron."

He placed her gently on the bed, then went over and locked the bedroom door.

The very next Monday, Bella made her appointment with the surgeon. She told Jacob the date and the time, and he made arrangements so he could take the day off from work. There was no way he would let her go to that meeting alone.

They were both on pins and needles for the next few weeks waiting for the appointment day to arrive. The night before, neither of them got very much sleep. Jacob wouldn't loosen his grip around her; he just couldn't seem to get close enough. Bella didn't mind; she needed him more than ever. She had to rely on his strength to get her through this trying situation. Several times during the wee hours, he had whispered, "It'll be okay, Bells. I'll be with you every step of the way."

The morning of the appointment, Leah showed up to babysit for Aaron. Liam and Carlie were already at school.

Bella bent down, eye level with Aaron. "Now you be a good boy for Auntie Leah, okay?"

"I don't want to," he pouted.

Glancing at Jacob, Leah affirmed, "He's your kid all right."

She ruffled the little boy's hair. "Don't worry, guys. We'll have a fun time, won't we, Aaron?"

"He crossed his little arms in front of his chest. "No we won't," he huffed, and then added, "You mussed up my hair."

Leah waved the couple away. "Go on, get out of here. The two of us will be fine."

Jacob and Bella both kissed Aaron goodbye and were on the road minutes later.

It was quiet in the car. Neither one of them spoke for fear of losing control. When they pulled up to the office, Bella's hand shot out, clutching Jacob's wrist. He peered into her frightened eyes and placed his own hand on top of hers, patting it to reassure her. They walked up to the entrance, his arm solidly enveloping her shoulders in a protective manner.

They went through the door, signed in, and took a seat. Bella folded and unfolded her hands in her lap, nervously. Jacob, anxious himself, tried his best to soothe her by gently stroking her arm.

Twenty minutes later, a nurse came out into the lobby. "Mr. and Mrs. Black, we're ready for you. If you'll just follow me . . ."

Slowly trailing after the nurse, Bella and Jacob walked down the lighted hallway, facing what lay ahead—together—hand in hand.

Waiting for the date of the surgery was hard. Jacob hated to leave for work each morning; wanting to spend every minute with his sweetheart. It was almost a relief when the day arrived.

They were greeted warmly at the Seattle Medical Center, and shown to the pre-op area. He stayed with Bella as she changed into the hospital gown.

Jacob sat beside the gurney as the RN started the IV fluids. He held her hand, and his eyes never once left Bella's face. He almost lost his composure when the two hospital staff wheeled her into the surgical suite. He collapsed onto a seat in the waiting area with his head in his hands, praying fervently for everything to go well.

Four hours later, the surgeon came to speak to Jacob. "Well, Mr. Black, the surgery went well. We think we got all of it. The area wasn't that large, so the disfigurement won't be that noticeable except maybe to your wife. We checked out some of the lymph nodes and we didn't see any cancer cells. Bella is one very lucky woman.

"So, here's the deal—don't let her do any heavy lifting on that side until I see her again. She'll need radiation twice a day for five days. And I want to see her in my office in two weeks . . . You can take her home as soon as she wakes up. She's all yours," he said with a grin.

Jacob shook the surgeons hand vigorously. "Hey, thanks, Doc—thank you so much."

He walked up to his sleeping wife, and stroking her beloved face, spoke softly, "It's all over, honey. The doc said you did great."

Bella responded with a low moan; the anesthetic not fully worn off yet. Her head moved side to side restlessly, as another moan left her lips.

A half an hour passed, and at last her eyelashes began to flutter. "Jake," she murmured.

Placing his hand on her cheek, he answered, "I'm here, honey."

"My mouth is so dry."

The RN stopped by the gurney. Overhearing her comment, she remarked, "Hey, you're awake. Let me take your vital signs one last time, and then I'll get you some juice. Now don't go anywhere."

Her eyes blinked as she gazed at Jacob again. "Did he have to—"

Jacob interrupted her question with one of his own. "Why don't you see for yourself?"

She lifted her head slightly as he pulled back the sheet and blanket. The gown was haphazardly laid across her to gain easy access to her bandages. Her breath caught in her throat as she observed her two breasts covered in gauze. Overcome with emotion, she burst into tears of gratitude and relief.

Jacob smiled, in the knowledge that Bella would be at his side for a long time to come. He kissed her hand, and winked, "Hell of a way to get me to do the laundry for the next two weeks. Jeez, Bells, you only had to ask."

His eyes immediately softened, and his kisses were just as soft as he peppered her cheeks and mouth with them.

"Perfect," he whispered. "You're absolutely perfect."

She gazed into those beautiful onyx eyes. "You only think I'm perfect, because you love me and it's blinded you."

"Then I never want to see again," he replied, soberly. He sealed that love with one last lingering kiss that spoke to her heart. Kwop kilawtley, Bells. Kwop kilawtley.

The End