A/N: This story was written for the Remember When This Was Fun! contest, so thanks to the lovely SadTomato and SingleStrnd for hosting it. Many thanks to MeraNaamJoker, FatedFeathers and HoochieMomma, too, for their awesome beta-ing sk1llz. And to you, for reading!
Trigger warning: Contains descriptions of depression, and features an attempted suicide (although I promise it's not all sad).
"When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in't, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee
And show'd thee all the qualities o' the isle:
Cursed be I that did so!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
and here you sty me
In this hard rock..."
The Tempest, Act 1 Scene II
The bigger light
"Hey. Come to visit your truck?"
Despite standing in front of her, Jacob sounded muffled, as if heard through the walls of a house. His sweatpants and flannel shirt were creased and stained, and his dark hair hung limp and unwashed.
Bella couldn't have cared less about his appearance. She threw herself at his body, hugging him as tightly as she was able, and shutting her eyes when she felt his arms close hesitantly around her.
His voice reverberated through his throat and into her cheek, tinged with amusement.
"I'm happy to see you, is all."
Slowly, his arms tugged her in a little closer. She held on until he started to pull away, but pushed a few errant strands of hair behind his ears regardless, just for neatness' sake. The corner of his mouth twitched.
"So, how is she?"
They'd agreed that the truck was female. Her name was still up for debate.
"All right. I need to change the front offside tire soon - it's getting a little bald. Can't have you getting pulled over by your dad."
Bella's left eyebrow arched.
"I'd just bolt. That state issue cruiser couldn't outrun a dairy cow."
She got a half-smile, and it felt like a prize.
Bella's adoration for Jacob Black had started more than a year ago, when she'd first moved to Forks. Jake and his dad had come over to deliver the truck they stood by now, and suffer the Mariners losing again. She'd watched in awkward awe as he'd lifted his father, with little effort, out of the cab and down to his chair, helping him shift into place and then straightening out the older man's clothes.
The chair looked ancient, with a fraying plastic seat and rusted handles, and had been the recipient of several fundamental repairs during its years of service. Jacob handled the movement over the cracked concrete of Charlie's driveway with practiced ease, though, and smiled at her as she held open the door to the house. It was the sort of blank pleasantry, she thought, which he must have used on hundreds of other folk who wrung their hands as he got on so capably at something which threw them for a loop.
That night, as she and Charlie drove back from dropping Jacob and his dad at their tiny, prefab house on the Reservation, her father lamented the situation.
"Boy's been without his mother for years, now. And his sisters got off the Rez and away. So he's somehow got to do his schoolwork, look after the house, fetch the groceries, get Billy to his hospital appointments..."
He stroked his mustache, and his lips followed its downturned edges.
"Be... kind to him, Bells. Not that you wouldn't be. It's just... he could use a friend."
Bella's face had flamed at the thought. The boy's smooth, russet skin and lips the colour of bitten cherry flesh had drawn her eyes all night. Not to mention the fact that he'd intrigued her with his quiet, dutiful ways. The boys she'd known in Phoenix were mostly immature - they enjoyed snapping bra straps, having gross eating competitions and boasting about their porn collections. In this young man she saw a quiet, kindred soul.
A groan, followed by a sigh, brought her back to the garage. She followed Jacob's eyes to a large stack of homework.
"What are you working on?"
"Shakespeare. Something about a magician on an island."
Bella read the essay title aloud. "'To what extent is Caliban's anger towards Prospero legitimate?' Jake, this is great! There's loads to say."
He looked a little sheepish.
"Have you read it?"
Bella cleared a space on the bench for them both to sit.
"Well, when's the essay due?"
"Want my help?"
He grunted in assent, and sat down in the little space next to her, his arm brushing hers as he settled. She wondered if he'd rather have her help him study, then answered her own question: of course he would.
She'd arrived three months ago and taken Jacob with the sharp, indiscriminate sweep of a scythe to yellow wheat. Bella hated her. She never thought she'd say that about anyone, but she'd never seen someone she loved so completely cut down by another human being. Except perhaps her dad. Well, that thought was sobering. She focused on the task.
"Okay, so Prospero is the magician, like you said. He was exiled to this island where he discovered Caliban living."
Jake nodded, and tried to ignore the fact that Bella smelled really good - like air dried cotton - when he was fairly sure his own personal aroma was less than enticing.
"At first Prospero and he are friends, but soon they fall out as he tries to have sex with Miranda, Prospero's daughter. So we can put that down here."
She started noting the outline of the characters - jotting sex in small, hasty characters - as Jake watched. The way she wrote was completely different to her – girlish and stylised rather than spiked and scrawled. She never felt like time was worth spent in writing. If he'd tried to do school work when they were together, she'd take the pen from his hands and pull him up and out into the forest. She'd push him against the rough bark of a tree, and kiss him like it would bring him back from the dead. It almost had.
He tried to shove the thoughts away, but they kept coming, flooding his mind with painful, incredible memories. The day she'd woken him up by climbing through his window, how she'd driven them both to Canada to escape for the day, the way her nails had raked his chest as she sat in his lap, how she'd told him over and over again he was her obsession; made her wild.
He gritted his teeth together, trying to keep the tears behind his eyes and stop his heart from dropping down his cheeks and dripping onto the dusty floor. It was fairly useless, though. After he'd started remembering, he couldn't ever make it end. He'd have to recall the look on her face as she told him he wasn't good for her, how she didn't want him anymore. And then the feeling as he'd lain on the springy, sharp pine bed of the forest, wishing the earth would close over him.
Anything, God, anything rather than to walk back to that tiny, tumbledown bungalow to help his dad get into bed. The guilt stung almost as badly as the hurt.
Bella had stopped talking. She set the work down and took his hands in her much whiter ones. They shook along with his back.
"I know sometimes when someone comforts you it makes it harder, but..."
Her voice was a whisper. Jake nodded. Sometimes he managed to act okay, but most of the time he felt like he'd soundlessly sealed himself off. It was hard living like that, and it was getting harder and harder every day. He wasn't sure how much longer the strength in him would last. He'd tasted it now – the soul-raising, heart-nourishing perfection of true love – and he couldn't ever go back, yet he was already there.
Bella tried – for the fourth time that week – not to be too scared by Jake's distress, but oh, it hurt. He was staring at the floor, tears making their way down his face. He didn't attempt to move or to wipe them away. The depth of his despair was breaking her heart.
She shut her eyes and tried to pull his body into hers. He resisted at first, but then she kissed his dirty hair once, and again, and he gave up. As he coughed and sobbed, she stroked his back and begged this wouldn't kill him, even if it seemed like his whole being was wracked with it, like a cancer.
When he began to regain composure, her touch the only thing anchoring him to the world, he found he didn't even really feel much shame. Just sadness that Bella, so full of light, had to see it. The truth was creeping up on him, though – just like his dad had said to him this morning – it had been going on too long. If there was a way up that he could find, it would probably have presented itself to him by now, months later.
It was this feeling that found him standing at the top of the tallest cliffs in the Rez a few days later, staring blankly at the heaving, white-topped sea beneath. He knew he would be leaving a lot of people behind, that it would hurt them – but they didn't know how bad it was. It was too much for one person to hold inside. As he pitched forward into the air, a sense of quiet acceptance filled him. Soon, it would be over; it would stop. His only wish now was for it to stop.
- TBL -
Bella hadn't ever felt more terrified than the moment her father had turned to her, face ashen, and said there'd been an accident. She knew immediately it was Jake – how he'd tried was almost inconsequential. The last time she'd seen him she'd felt she was holding onto a ghost.
Forks Hospital was really just a clinic, so when he'd washed up, blue lipped with a pulse faint as rain on moss, he'd been taken to Port Angeles. Only the cold of the water, Charlie said, was what kept him alive. That, and the quick actions of the Quileute couple, Sam and Leah, who found him. Bella shuddered as they sped around Crescent Lake, gleaming like a knife in the moonlight.
When she stepped into his hospital room, she made an effort not to balk. She knew Jake would be surrounded by machines, and being taken aback by that wouldn't help. Instead, she hugged Billy tightly, and kissed his greying hair, surprised by how familiar it felt to embrace him. She tried not to look too closely at the devastation on his face.
Jake lay silent, unconscious. He looked taller, stretched out under the white sheets, the paleness of his skin much closer to hers than she'd ever seen. She stroked his face, and tucked his blankets up a little higher.
"Hey," she said, blinking fast, "it's Bella – I'm here with my dad." She paused, unsure of how to continue. She wanted to say plenty of things, but Billy and Charlie were there. Instead, she leaned close to him, and whispered "love you" in his ear, kissing the cold, soft skin for good measure before turning away, pink-faced.
- TBL -
Jacob was released seventy-two hours later, clutching a copy of his referral letter to a psychiatric unit. The Washington state insurance for minors was surprisingly robust, and he was to be seen by a therapist called Esme Evenson a few days hence. In some ways, the fact that the system was finally taking notice alleviated the panic from Jake's thoughts a little but he still felt very very low; a smothering sadness blanketing his waking hours. His failed attempt felt sad, but he couldn't find it in himself to regret it.
The only moments of comfort were those he found with Bella. His dad was still trying to recover from the shock and anguish of almost losing him, and the guilt of that ran through Jacob's chest like a seam in rock. His friends on the Rez had mostly been silent, awkward or angry with him.
Bella wasn't like that - she told him she'd helped her mom with problems many times over the years, and she wasn't afraid of him, or upset. She was the one who drove Jake to the clinic at the end of her school day for his first appointment. Their silence, soundtracked by a crappy country station, was simple, with Bella concentrating on the traffic and Jacob scanning the roadside pines. While he was seen she waited outside for him, sketching out geography diagrams and sipping hot coffee from the donut shop down the road.
Jacob walked into the practice with a mouth full of sand. After a small wait in a beige-painted foyer scattered with dog-eared magazines and blocky toys, he was shown to a room where a woman with hair the colour of caramel waited. She stood, and offered her hand.
"I'm Esme. You must be Jacob?"
Her ease, her smile, grated on him a little, so he grunted a greeting, but did shake her hand. He hadn't been dragged up, no matter what it seemed.
"Please sit down. I just need to go through a few details. You've been referred to me by Port Angeles ER, where you were a few days ago - is that right?"
A brief nod. She went through his other details, noting down the history of his mom's death, dad's disability and sisters' departure, then began her questioning in an entirely unexpected way.
"Why did you admit to it?"
Jake frowned, unsure of her game plan.
"I mean, you could have said you simply fell - a prank or teenage exuberance gone wrong."
"It would have been a lie."
The carpet was oatmeal brown - a good choice, Jake thought. Good for masking stains.
"But you've been lying to everyone for months, haven't you?"
Who the hell had she been speaking to? It was true, though.
"You must have told plenty of people you didn't need help, that you were doing all right."
"So this was a way to show them what was really inside?"
The commonness of his actions made Jake feel sick. The shrink didn't know anything about him - she was just... used to it. Teenagers throwing their suffering voices like ventriloquists off cliffs.
He opened his mouth. "It's not going to get any better." She might as well understand his reasoning, at least. "If it was, it would have happened by now. And I can't live like this any more."
Esme was silent for a moment, and noted something down.
"But Jacob, that's why I have a job. Why everyone at this clinic does. You've just described depression; it doesn't get better on its own."
He stared at his scuffed sneakers, at a knot on the end of the lace so tight it looked like a fist.
"You've had tragedies in your childhood which are awful and deeply affecting. It's no wonder you've not been able to cope by yourself. I wouldn't expect you to, no matter how much you want to, or how strong you are - which is very - or how much you try."
Tears, wetting his collar.
"But that ends now. You are not going to need to try to kill yourself again because we are going to find a way through this, okay? It won't be like this forever."
That night, Bella lay in her bed and squinted at the ceiling. She'd picked up and put down her phone over and over again, trying to word the desperate pull she felt. In the end, she just sent Hey, I can't sleep. You awake? and waited, fidgeting.
Jake's reply was almost instantaneous.
Me either. What's up?
I was just thinking about you. Bella stuck with honesty. It seemed right.
Too late. Can I come and see you tomorrow?
Yep - 10am. Bring soda. I'm out of 'Dew.
His use of her full name, normally something which irritated her but now seemed magical, made sleep impossible for another thirty minutes.
- TBL -
Over the next few months, Jacob struggled through Prozac-induced nausea, horrendously difficult therapy sessions about his mom's death, and the terrible guilt of the visit his dad had from DCHS. The only thing which kept him sane as he blindly felt his way in the world of the living, was the warm grip of Bella Swan's hand.
And one day, almost exactly six months since he'd flown off the top of the cliff, they sat on the beach together and he told her his darkest, deepest secret.
"I'm so worried, Bells." He frowned, struggling to say it out loud as if the power of it might overwhelm them both. "I despaired. I gave up. I honestly did not care if I lived or died when I jumped. How do I even try to come back from that?" He forced his lips shut.
She was quiet for a moment.
"So you think your life now might not forgive you, like an abandoned dog?"
He kicked away a clump of seaweed. "I feel like I had a life, and I willingly gave it up. So I don't deserve to have one now, to have good things in it, and to feel okay. It feels like I've marked myself, as if what I did is unforgivable. And I'm not even sure if I want the good things. I'm still not sure... whether I'm glad or not that I didn't succeed."
He left that hanging for Bella to untangle, like he knew she would.
"Well, you did survive." He nodded. "So I think the problem you're having now is forgiving yourself. And I think you're still sad, too. That doesn't just go away, and it bleaches out all your good thoughts."
He stared at the roots of the sea-whitened tree they were perched upon.
"Until you decide you want a future, you can't properly forgive yourself for trying. You're torn at the moment; you have to get to the point where surviving is what you want, and where you can acknowledge that you were in an awful place and did what you did because it was all you could do at the time."
"What if that makes me a coward, Bells? Why wasn't I stronger? What does it say about me?"
"That's up to you to decide. It's embarrassing and lame but... sometimes I think of you like the tallest, widest tree I can imagine. You're the strongest person I know."
They both looked down.
"I think of you like a sun. You're just so warm."
Bella's eyes widened and she began blinking rapidly. Her hand crept over to his and their fingers intertwined.
"Look at what led you to the point where you felt that bad. Do you really believe people would think you were cowardly for what you did?"
"Maybe. Others have survived worse."
"But they're not you - you can't compare yourself to other people, because no two situations or people will ever be the same. It's not useful. And if other people don't get that, it's their problem. Do you think you were cowardly? Did you feel like you had a choice?"
"I..." He paused, squeezed his eyes shut. He'd been trying to tease this answer out of his thoughts for weeks. "I guess there's always a choice. I felt, though, like I couldn't handle the choice anymore. It was carrying on like I had, and I just couldn't anymore..."
"That doesn't really sound like a choice, Jake..."
"I guess not."
His eyes were starting to reflect the grey-green landscape as they filled with tears.
"You have to make peace with yourself, somehow. Maybe you can't settle it, but you should try to accept it."
"As a mistake, you mean?" Jake's voice cracked.
"Maybe. Or a decision. The only one you could make at the time?"
"What do you think?" His voice was so quiet it was almost a whisper.
"I think you're incredible." Bella shifted in place. "You've coped single handedly with your dad for years, with your mom's death, and kept up school. You've tried so hard and when... she... left, well, the heartbreak was just the straw that broke the camel's back. You might not be okay with what you did now, or for a long time, but... I am."
He made no attempt to hide his tears; it wasn't needed with her.
"I hate that you almost left us. But you didn't, and I love that you're still here. And I love you so much because you're trying again."
There was a brief pause as both struggled to keep their composure. Bella had longed to ask her next question for a while, but only now risked it.
"Have you considered... trying again?"
He nodded, confirming her suspicions. A cold, heavy feeling settled in her stomach.
"Okay. The next time you feel like that, do you think you could call me? Or come see me? Or even just text?"
A seagull screeched overhead, circling and wheeling in the blustery wind.
"I know it might seem futile, but I promise I will do all I can to keep you safe."
Bella felt her shoulders drop.
"It's just the dreams, you know. They don't help. Make it seem hopeless."
She did. Her sleep was dreadful too; she'd mentioned it to him a few times as they commiserated over waking at three o'clock shaking and sweating. Her latest nightmare was Jacob laid out in formalwear for his wake, white as her belly and soaking wet...
- TBL -
The next night, as she lay in bed watching the shadows of twigs flicker on her bedroom walls, a pebble bounced off her windowpane. The noise made her start, but she walked quickly over to the glass and peeked out. Jake was standing by the trunk of the tall maple whose branches she'd been watching.
"Can I come up?" He called, in a stage whisper, and she nodded enthusiastically. He began climbing and a minute later clambered inelegantly through her bedroom window. She helped him over the sill, then wrapped her arms around his t-shirt-clad middle and squeezed him tight.
"Hey," he answered, a little amused, as ever, by her exuberant greeting. "I couldn't sleep, and I thought maybe you couldn't either..."
"Yep. But we have to keep it down so we don't wake Charlie." As soon as the words left Bella's lips, she visibly reddened, even in the dark room and started away. "I mean, I didn't mean... oh God."
He pulled her back into him. "Don't worry, I don't think you'll take advantage of me."
"That's right. I'm not that sort of boy. In fact, I'm not any sort of boy."
"Shut up and let me get back into bed - it's freezing."
He perched on the edge of her mattress, trying not to notice the fact that she wasn't wearing her usual jeans and flannel combo, and was instead clad in little yellow shorts and a white tank top. He wasn't aware where that thought had come from - he hadn't even looked at a girl since her - but apparently he was still male and still alive.
Bella snuggled down under the duvet, and kicked the comforter on the end (for those truly sodden, bitter nights in February when the weather made her want to scream) in his direction. He took it, and wrapped it around his shoulders, before moving to sit in the old wooden chair by the foot of the bed.
"For some reason today - I think 'cos Dad and I had a stupid fight over groceries - I really miss my mom."
The longing on Jake's face seemed to stretch into the past like an arm reaching back.
"What was she like?"
He smiled sadly.
"Fierce. Fair, in a really annoying way. She was always getting the truth out of us kids about who stole whose toy, which one of us kicked the other one, whose turn it was to pick the TV channel."
Bella listened silently, trying to fit the pieces to the picture she had of Sarah from family photos.
"She was so patient with us... even when we must have driven her crazy. She'd sit me on her lap and just talk to me, like an adult, and we'd have these little chats about life or animals or the Rez or dad or space... anything... whatever my little brain was fixating on that day..."
He pulled the blanket a little closer, tucking his feet up onto the seat so he could cover his knees, too.
"She liked to eat blueberries straight off the bush in the backyard, and she'd make stacks of pancakes to eat with them, covered in syrup, then just fetch them in and toss them on top. And she'd wink at me whenever either of us had done something naughty, and she'd say 'Don't tell your dad!', and we'd both giggle, because what would dad do? He was always such a calm, even man. Or he was before she died."
"He still is." Bella's gaze caught his for a moment. "He's just a bit lost, buried underneath everything."
"Sometimes I think that about your dad, too."
Bella smiled ruefully. "I can't work out if Charlie's stayed the way he has on purpose, or because he just likes being by himself."
"Nope - he loves having you around. Although you don't really count. No one wouldn't want their own Bella."
She bit her lip. "Well, you have one. This Bella comes with her own aged truck, a caffeine addiction and some seriously dubious CDs."
"I'll take three."
The silliness dissolved in the gray of the unlit room.
"Do you feel buried?"
"Sometimes. But other times it seems there's still a part of me sticking out of the ground, waiting to be uncovered. Mostly when I'm with you."
Bella's heart began to beat too quickly, but she hid it well. "That may be the most emo thing you've ever said."
Jake pursed his lips. "I doubt it."
"Come here?" The words were out of her mouth so fast.
"Well, you can't sleep in that chair, you'll give yourself a sore neck."
He slowly stood, and moved around to the empty side of the bed. She pulled back the duvet and he slid under, his palms a little sweaty. If Charlie burst in now, he was a dead man - there was no doubt of that.
"Your dad doesn't keep his shotgun by his bed, does he?"
"No, scaredy. It's downstairs. He only keeps the Glock up here."
"Okay, well, I may need to use you as a human shield."
"Shush." Bella yawned. "Sleep time." She rolled over to him, rested her head on his chest and her ice cold feet on his calves. He stifled a yelp by kissing her hair and pulling her soft, warm body closer.
- TBL -
They both woke up the next morning, in roughly the same position, to the sound of Chief Swan loudly clearing his throat and doing his best Simon Cowell face.
"Jacob, please tell me you have pants on under there?"
Jake scrambled to get out of the bed and prove this was, indeed, the case. Charlie eyed his jeans suspiciously, while the subject of his inspection prayed his morning wood had deflated.
"All right, get gone."
"Yessir." He bolted for the door.
Charlie's hands fell from his hips and he sat in Bella's wooden chair.
"He just couldn't sleep, Dad."
"And anyway, you like Jake. Would it be so bad? I'm 17. I'm almost a grown up."
Bella cringed internally at the thought of the imminent discussion.
"I know that. It's just..."
"I guess I expected to get sat down on the couch while you two stood awkwardly and announced you were courting or something."
"Yeah, now I've said that out loud it does sound pretty stupid."
"Nothing like that is going on. Jake's still..." Bella trailed off, unsure how to put Jake's situation into words. Was he still in love with her? He always avoided the topic of the girl who broke him in two. Was he holding back because he knew Bella liked him, and he didn't want to hurt her? The thought made her nauseous.
"Well, maybe try taking things a bit more slowly than this? Please? And just be safe, if things do... progress."
Charlie stroked his mustache. "I've been a cop enough years to know telling kids to abstain is about as useful as shouting 'Stop, police!'. And I was young once, too, y'know."
Bella nodded. "I know I wasn't exactly planned..."
"No, Bells. Your mom and I weren't trying when you showed up. I love you so much, though, I'm pretty sure you were meant to be."
- TBL -
Driving slowly back to La Push, the wind cooling his blushed face, Jake turned over last night's events in his head. It was the first time for months that bad dreams hadn't hijacked his sleep, and left him with all those memories split open and spilling out.
He wondered if he'd be able to put a foot in the house again after Charlie caught them. They should have set an alarm on his phone - so stupid of him not to! He hoped her dad hadn't been too hard on her. He also hoped she hadn't noticed the hard on pressing against her leg in the night. He was a teenage boy... surely it was unavoidable. And Bella really had just looked so damn edible... all that long, chestnut hair in disarray, no make up, just clean skin... and those tiny little shorts...
For him, up until this point, sex and love were fast and desperate, hard and demanding. She'd been so sure of herself; her kisses showy and devouring, and he couldn't resist that sort of confidence. She'd been addictive, and he'd followed her, puppy-like.
Objectively, what they'd had wasn't love at all, but inside him felt fundamentally changed, regardless.
After reading Billy's note ("Son, you are in trouble. Your dad - remember me?") he decided he'd better try and at least make peace with his family. His dad was almost certainly over at Sue's on council business, so if he turned up looking vaguely presentable he might be forgiven.
Starting with a hot shower, he lathered his body, wincing as the water ran over a few scratches on his arms and legs from the maple tree's bark. His hands made it as far as his cock, however, before they paused. In moments, he'd rubbed himself hard.
After she left him, he'd tried very hard not to masturbate. The smell of cum, the feeling of orgasms, made him think of her and he ended up a mess both physically and mentally; crying and ashamed to have thought of her as he pumped into his hand.
This time, though, he let himself create a picture of Bella. If he'd have turned a little last night, moved closer, stroked her nose with his and then taken her lovely, full bottom lip between his teeth... would she have kissed him back? He thought she liked him that way... maybe... possibly... but it was hard to be sure when he couldn't work out why the hell she might.
Still, in his head, he slid his hand under her hair, stroking just by her ear with his thumb as he pulled her warm body flush against him and kissed her fully. He wondered how she'd react, but at least he knew how she'd feel. Her body was curvy in such a natural way - she was a slim girl, but her hips swelled out, before dipping up to her waist. Her breasts were small, but lovely - handfuls of cream with cocoa nipples in his mind's eye... and her thighs, wrapped around him, felt strong and so, so soft... twitching as she caught her breath when he touched her just there...
His cock jerked in his hand and he came hard, spilling onto the shower walls as the feeling of her body became almost real on his heated skin. He leaned back against the cool tiles, stroking through the last pulses and let the guilt seep in - she was his best friend, after all. Not his girlfriend.
Still, somewhere with it was a sense of triumph. He'd finally been able to think of someone else; find someone else sexy. Someone who wasn't her. Someone who was better.
He'd just finished washing, and was throwing on a t-shirt and some boxers when there was a knock on the door. He pulled on jeans while yelling "just a sec!" and then padded barefoot down the hall. Behind the door, though, wasn't someone real. It was an apparition - he was sure of it. Because it was her.
- TBL -
Jake shook his waterlogged head and watched as she stepped closer. He stepped back.
He stared, anger growling in his chest, along with an ache the width of the horizon.
She nodded and held out her hand.
"Can we talk?"
He took it, mechanically, and let her inside. She seemed incongruous in his little house as they sat side by side on the sofa. The last time she'd been here had been so filled with trauma that he was almost scared to hear what she had to say; her hold over him was still so horribly strong.
"I came to apologise." He snorted, and it made him think of Bella.
"I know I hurt you, Jake. I'm sorry." He nodded. Her hand snaked its way onto his lap. "I just... I feel like maybe we didn't give what we had enough of a chance before I took off..."
A deep, childlike part of him stared wide-eyed at her. "What are you saying?"
"Well," she rubbed his inner thigh, "we were so good together... remember how we were?"
He was speechless. He'd written this moment so many times in his head he had too many lines to choose from. "But... but... you said..."
She shushed him, touching his lips with her index finger.
"How could you really believe me? How could you think I didn't love you?"
"That's what you said... you insisted..."
"I was lying... I was just scared that I wasn't good for you, Jake. And after this time apart I've realised that's bullshit. I never stopped loving you."
He stood up and stumbled to the door frame.
"This is... crazy..."
She followed him, standing too close, her perfume surrounding him, making him sore with longing.
"You hurt me so, so much..."
She pressed her hips to his, and kissed his neck. "I know, Jakey... but I can make the pain go away, too. Remember how I did that?"
He put his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her back.
"No. You didn't. You just distracted me."
"Isn't that the same thing?" She reached between his legs, and grinned at finding him half hard. He shoved her hand away.
"It might be for you," he paused. He felt like he had to force the words from his mouth. "But it's not for me any more." He turned her around and walked her towards the front door, tears already falling in streams.
"You really don't want me?" She stepped onto the porch, indignant and off-kilter. Obviously this hadn't gone to plan.
Jake shook his head and closed the door just in time to catch his collapsing heart out of sight, and sobbed until he could hardly breathe.
Later, when he'd cleaned himself up somewhat, he stumbled into the kitchen and poured a glass of water. That's where Billy found him, where he took his son's head into his hands, and forgave him.
- TBL -
It was several months before he started to really feel like he'd made the right decision to refuse her, regardless of his wonderful therapist's endorsement. Seeing her again had brought the nightmares back so badly he felt like he might never be brave enough to sleep again. He'd sat in Billy's easy chair, staring at the sofa where she'd been, unsure if it'd really happened, night after torturous night. For the longest time it seemed the part of his memory which was stained by her continued to catch his eye when the light hit it at just the right angle, and there was nothing he could do.
But, he took his medication religiously because, despite the sickness and the rushes of nervous tension, it did lift that sodden, heavy feeling enough for him to actually think. Bella drove him to and from Port Angeles every week for therapy, and they listened to music, while enjoying the sight of Crescent Lake. It never seemed to diminish in its calm, glassy beauty no matter how many times they watched the truck's reflection glide along its surface.
What wasn't calm, though, was Jacob's mind, for a totally new reason: Bella.
After that night together in her bed, he'd not been able to get her out of his head, even if the reappearance of his ex had thrown a large, clunky spanner in the works. He was noticing new, maddeningly attractive things about her every day, it seemed. The red blazing in her hair in bright light, how she pulled her sleeves over her hands, how she'd glance at the ground, then up, then down again when he complimented her outfit or cooking or grades. Her blush.
Bella's infatuation was only worsening with time, too, as Jake seemed to be getting better. He was standing straighter and growing so tall... and she was trying very hard not to throw herself at him every time they hung out.
This time, as they pulled up to his front door in La Push a full two months after she had left his life for good, something felt different. The air in the cab was charged, as if the tension between them was sparking through the dashboard. Jake looked both scared and resolute as he took Bella's hands in his and turned her towards him. She felt she might pass out, or explode, or something which wouldn't help. She didn't. She sat very still as he leaned forward and nudged her nose with his.
"Bells," he murmured, "hypothetically, if I were to kiss you right now... would that be okay?"
She couldn't speak, so instead she brushed his lips with hers, kissing him so gently and tenderly his heart felt like it was being wrung out. He kissed her back, gently at first, savouring her taste and her lovely scent and the feel of her hands gripping his tightly. Then, as she encouraged him with a little moan, he opened his mouth and his heart and his head and his arms to his sun, Bella Swan.