Pairing: Jacob/Bella

Genre: Angst/Romance

Rating: M

Summary: Moving to Forks for her senior year of high school, Bella finds a very different Jacob than her sunny, extroverted best friend of the past 17 summers.

Taking the concepts of Twilight and spinning them with a dark realism and emotional depth, this shortish story will explore the havoc that Phasing wreaks on the young men of the Rez where youth evaporates in the fires of duty and even love is cursed.

Pre-Reader: Tayjayfan Beta: None (as you will undoubtedly see)

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.



I'd been doing a bunch of reading and couldn't find a fic that scratched a particular itch just right for me so I thought I'd give it a try. I want to see what an Alpha Jacob would really be like with a setting/reactions/psych that was actually realistic. This is what I came up with. It's dark, but I'm an HEA girl. Hopefully it's an enjoyable exercise for you too.

Sometimes people use music.. but this fic was partially inspired by two of my all time fave poems - the first one for this chap has pronouns changed because the original Rilke poem is about a girl.

Prereader: Tayjayfan She convinced me that this is actually interesting/passable enough to post.

All typos belong to me alone… if I sold them a penny each I'd be rich.



The Grown-Up

All this stood upon him and was the world
and stood upon him with all its fear and grace
as trees stand, growing straight up, imageless
yet wholly image, like the Ark of God,
and solemn, as if imposed upon a race.

As he endured it all: bore up under
the swift-as-flight, the fleeting, the far-gone,
the inconceivably vast, the still-to-learn,
serenely as a woman carrying water
moves with a full jug. Till in the midst of play,
transfiguring and preparing for the future,
the first white veil descended, gliding softly

over his opened face, almost opaque there,
never to be lifted off again, and somehow
giving to all his questions just one answer:
In you, who were a child once - in you.

By Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell (with pronoun change)



Chapter 1 - Never Show Weakness


Jacob tore through the damp silent forest, paws beating a dark frenetic rhythm on the leaves. Not a bird or an insect dared whisper; the air was saturated with the dark viscous promise of death.

'Jared, Quil! She's fucking headed for the shore!' he bellowed through the Pack mind.

'Got 'er chief,' Jared's calm monotone shimmered like heat on pavement.

Baring fang, Jacob snarled as he leaped a ravine, flashing yellow eyes myopically focused on the vibrant red that flashed through the trees like a matador's cape. That repulsive rotting scent billowed behind the willowy figure and sent scalding adrenaline burning through his veins.

'Make noise!' Jacob's command was immediately met with a twisting chorus of howls.

Now she knew; her pursuers were heading off her attempts at a watery escape. She nimbly switched course, leaping into a tree and scaling it like a monkey on a wire before soaring to the next and the next, high in the canopy above their heads.

Fuck! She's airborne! Jacob roared, gnashing his teeth in fury.

His wolf lunged up the trunk in pure frustration after her, his claws madly grating the bark in a flurry of shavings. He fell heavily back down, twisting around at the last second to land on four paws with agility that defied his size. Muzzle tipped up, he galloped after her, rabidly snapping his jaws. That scent… it drove them all wild.

For several moments dead silence swallowed the Pack mind like a vacuum, not so much as a stray thought daring to breathe. Only their Alpha's agitated chuffing was heard over the rustling leaves on the forest floor and crackle of branches high above as their prey desperately scrabbled limb to limb.

'Yessss…. fuck yes,' Jacob murmured, as a low approving growl rumbled in his animal's barrel chest.

She was headed for the meadow, and therefore running herself quickly into an aerial dead end. Of course, that also meant she'd be yards away from the fucking Cullen treaty line.

'It's okay, s'alright,' he soothed himself (and his Pack) as indignant rage buckled through his gut. 'She'll never make it.'

Snout in the air - and heedless of rock and terrain underfoot - Jacob scrambled from trunk to trunk, glancing up ahead and calculating possibilities.

'Yeahhhh…. we got this cunt,' he crooned, low and slick and deadly. 'Embry! Phase and climb! Flush her out!'

A soft wet pop behind him left a gaping hole in the mental tapestry that he subconsciously monitored even in his dreams. Whenever wolves were Phased, Jacob was there - watching, always watching.

'Fall in! Fall in!' he whooped, lifting his muzzle to the overcast skies and loosing a long earsplitting howl. A battle cry.

The second Embry had scaled a tree after her, that bitch had started leaping haphazardly, frantically, a feral hiss of desperation falling down over them like the rain.

But the bitch didn't stand a chance… everyone was in place.

Jacob could both feel and hear Jared and Quill thundering up from the coast. Paul never needed prompting - he had a sixth sense about this shit - and as their best was more than enough on that end. He was pacing ahead in the meadow, snarling like the rabid dogs they all were.

As Embry's huge human body leaped and landed in an ungainly scrabble against another tree trunk, the elm swaying with his weight, the demon sprang lightly to her next perch and paused. The expression on her face showed she knew: the Pack was closing in on her like a noose.

'Game's up, sweetheart,' Jacob chuckled low, a lupine growl bouncing in his chest.

The vampire made a desperate bid to switch direction away from the meadow and fell two branches with a screech and a crash.

Attention focused like a laser on his flailing prey, Jacob surged up with powerful haunches and phased at the twenty-foot apex of the thrust. Human hands grabbed onto branch and trunk propelling him further as a high squeal reverberated through his ear like fingernails on a chalkboard. He seized a slender ankle in his fist and yanked with all his might. For a second, she tugged along his 6'7" frame before the branches bowed with their weight.

The next instant, they went crashing to the forest floor while Jacob held her and the girl piteously wailed.

His Pack was waiting.

Hitting the ground with a thunderous boom, Jacob rolled twice, stopping the momentum with the Phase. Pushing up onto four paws, he whipped around with a vicious snarl that sent foaming spittle flying like snow. His Pack had descended on their kill, savage snarls boiling the air over the female screams of pure unmitigated terror.

'MINE!' he roared at the brutal flurry of fur that was growling over their prey, chunks of white flesh flying like woodchips in the exuberant melee. 'MINE!'

In a wicked pounce, he was in the middle of the fray, three massive bodies peeling back from their Alpha's attack. He snapped at Paul's wolf who was still gnawing on a shoulder, nipping at an ear and drawing blood. With a contrite yowl, his Pack mate cowered and shuffled back, belly to the ground even while his yellow eyes stayed hungrily locked on their victim.

Tearing his attention from Paul, Jacob's searing gaze fell on his prey. He lifted his muzzle from canines in a snarl as he prowled toward her.

The girl was now whimpering, futilely scrabbling with her ruined stumps of limbs. Her red eyes were wide - frightened, he realized - and her lips were trembling. She couldn't have been more than twenty when she died. The first time. Her clothes had been ripped away baring one perfect milky breast and the delicate bones of her shoulders. She'd have been no more than 5'6" and 125 lbs wet and she'd been beautiful - with long curling locks of vibrant red hair and smooth porcelain skin. Smooth, creamy skin …like Bella.

Jacob blinked hot yellow eyes and lowered his massive head threateningly as a savage snarl tore from his lips.

"P-please…" she pleaded, her soprano was high and breathy as she shook her head back and forth, her torn strawberry locks plastered to her face with the rain.

Jacob's paw slammed her down square in the middle of her chest, pinning her pitiful limbless attempts at flight. Her head slammed back to the ground and she pulled her quivering lip into her mouth with a sob. These demons looked so real, so innocent and… human. But that sickening scent burned through his nose and sent fire through his veins roaring through his body like an unstoppable red tide.

With a snap of jaws, he tore off her face.

And gave himself in to the animal.

Ripping apart and shredding the body under him as his wolf growled with unadulterated glee, he didn't stop until there was nothing left that even resembled human anatomy.

"It's done, Jake," Embry's human voice was low, soothing.

The wolf lifted its head from its frenetic search for more chunks of flesh.

Jacob met his brother's eyes and blinked, struggling to push down that suffocating mandate… that iron-clad impulse to decimate.

"It's actually easier if you don't take it that far, dude," Quil's gawky laugh cackled through the silent forest.

Jacob turned to where the rest of the Pack was Phased back to human and standing … a safe distance away.

"We're gonna hafta strap a fuckin' broom to our legs, Chief," Paul drawled from where he was leaning against a large oak and digging dirt out from under his nails. He looked up from under his lashes and his lips twisted in a wry smirk.

Blinking again, Jacob shoved down the beast with an obdurate hand and Phased, seamlessly straightening to two feet. He was standing in the middle of a twenty foot radius of nothing but white hamburger meat.

Shoving a hand through his short hair he turned his back on them all.

"Torch it," he hissed. With no other word, he strode into the woods. His shorts had been shucked from his leg in the chase - as usual - but the others had obviously kept their pants on, so to speak. His nudity didn't bother him in the least and he needed the time as a biped to gather scattered human thoughts in the relative private.

He listened behind him to the Pack making lame attempts at banter as they scooped up vampire confetti off the sodden ground.

"One more ho' bites the dust," Paul laughed.

"Paul's our secret weapon," Quil guffawed. "One look at him…"

He never got the rest of that sentence out before he was howling in pain.

"I hate it when they talk," Jared murmured quietly, letting off some earnest steam to Embry no doubt.

And those words cut right to the heart of things with a visceral knife. A flashback of the girl burned through his mind's eye - filthy, torn and frightened… struggling to scrabble back with her ruined limbs. Jacob's stride didn't so much as falter.

Until he was sure he was out of sight.

Catching himself on a large oak, he leaned his forehead against the mossy bark while his heaving breath struggled to play catch up.

He hated when they spoke too.

Pressing his lips together, Jacob closed his eyes. It was such a mind-fuck. This was only the third leech they'd caught travelling through their territory. The other two had been male. He knew she was nothing but a demon masquerading under the guise of a frail and feminine human form and that the girl - the real girl - had died long ago. But still the thing obviously had feelings - despair, terror, pain. It was a sentient nightmare. A monster.

And not so different from himself.

Just a little over a year ago, Jacob's humanity had been stolen from him in a fortnight: from fever to growth to a bone-breaking explosion into beast. The transformation had been nothing short of brutal. Perhaps more frightening, he'd watched the reflection in the bathroom mirror change in mere weeks from a 16 year old boy to a twenty-something year old man. Yet even still, it was the change in his eyes that was the most shocking - he could tell by way his father avoided them.

Sam had phased first as it had taken Jacob a month to catch up to the older boy's maturity; in this particular case age trumped bloodline. But not for long.

In the four short weeks it took Jacob to catch up, Sam had imprinted on his fiancée's cousin and ripped into her: he'd wanted her - pure and simple - and he hadn't understood why or how she'd refused him. Sam had lost control with his imprint and subsequently lost his mind.

Jacob's first task as a new wolf and Alpha was picking up the pieces.

And so, technically barely old enough to legally drive a car, Jacob had found himself holding three older men together when life as they'd known it had been irreparably blown apart. Jared had been a jock with an easy childhood and promising future, Paul had already endured the worst humanity had to offer and Sam had been alternately suicidal or homicidal depending on the day. Jacob had born it all like his lineage and inheritance demanded, but the price had been exorbitant: something deep and central had been broken by the blunt-force trauma.

He'd never be the same.

Those stories they'd all been told around the campfire were nothing but nightmares couched in fairytales; a shameless bid to indoctrinate victims into complying with a fate they otherwise would've reviled.

But like he'd always done, Jacob stepped up. In the next months he'd succeeded in doing the unenviable: he'd initiated his two best friends into this hell, held the Pack together - when he himself wanted to fall apart - and coaxed a scarred and frightened Emily into accepting her fate.

Yes, even love was scripted by the ruthless hand of their inheritance. Imprinting had been romanticized to seduce hapless victims to happily accept their fate: Sam and Emily, Jared and Kim, and Quil and 14 year old little Claire. A hundred years ago maybe it was natural to consider a teen as sexually mature and a viable vessel for the next generation of progeny. But Jacob had seen the imperious mating compulsion - the "imprint" - first-hand and there was nothing natural about it now.

Emily was already three months pregnant - though her doctor had advised her to wait at least a year. It affected the girl, it seemed, just as much as the guy: by Emily's own admission she couldn't seem to remember to take her pill. Jacob had quickly ordered Sue to give the other two girls the depo shot - even an Alpha order couldn't keep the boys in socks. Thank all that was holy that the wolves were only fertile with their chosen mate - otherwise Paul would have a harem of pregnant conquests by now.

A long, agitated howl peeled back the afternoon and yanked Jacob back to the present.


Pushing off the tree, he opened his eyes to the somber darkening forest and shook off the tremors in his hands like rain. The acrid scent of burning leech wafted heavily on the breeze and Jacob glanced over his shoulder to the purple haze swirling through the trees.

"To the house!" he yelled, and then he dove into a Phase.

On four paws, he cantered toward Sam and Emily's house as the remaining wolf's silent agitation twisted and churned in his gut like a serpent. Had he not ordered Sam silent, the hunt would have been set to the soundtrack of the half-crazed mantra of Emily's name. Even still he could feel it mute and muffled in every beat of the black wolf's heart.

'She's safe, Sammy,' Jacob mentally soothed, velvet over steel. 'We killed it.'

Emily might wear her scars on her face, but Sam's were just as maiming and buried deep inside. He'd never fully heal from having injured his imprint and even now he always needed to be near her side. Jacob therefore charged him with "civilian duty" making him patrol no further than the rural backwoods of the Rez. In a fight like this, he guarded the women - forced to submerge his innate aggression into protective defense. It was too much for him still.

Jacob heard his Pack sprinting on two feet to catch up with his casual loping stride.

"How's he doin'?" Embry asked quietly as he fell into step with his leader.

Jacob's yellow lupine eye cut over to his friend with a yip. It was a rhetorical question - they both knew how Sam was doing: not good.

"Fuckin' sissy bitch," Paul snorted.

Without warning, Jacob spun on a dime and the air roiled with his savage barking snarl. With exacting aim - and in less time than he could blink - Paul was pinned to the ground by his hulking russet Alpha. The man's eyes were wide as saucers, his face plastered in an mask of unmitigated shock.

Jacob's muzzle peeled back from his teeth as he seamlessly Phased with a hand on the interloper's throat. "You. I've had just about as much as I can fuckin' take of you, Lahote," he ground out.

Paul swallowed thickly and Jacob felt his Adam's apple struggling against his crushing palm. Left over from the human scrapper he'd been, Paul was a valued and fierce fighter. Jacob knew both the gifts and advantages of each of his men but, perhaps even more importantly, he also knew their weaknesses. Paul's was lack of discipline - he had to be ruled by an iron fist.

"Keep that cock-sucking mouth shut, or I'll shut it for you," Jacob sneered. "Then how would you get laid, huh?" He pushed up to one knee on the man's chest as Paul submissively turned his head to the side to bare his neck. "Certainly not with this fuckin' ugly face," he chuckled, slapping his cheek and then pinching his jaw to turn him back to face him.

Jacob gaze bore into the man's eyes with heat as his voice again grew serious. "Pack's Pack. And I don't want none a' your shit. Sam's doing his best," he released his face and smoothly unfolded to his feet. "Just wait 'til your turn. I pity the girl who's gonna be your imprint."

Paul gave him a curt nod, still not daring to move.

Jacob wordlessly turned, ignoring the timorous gazes cutting up at him from under bowed heads as he strode past them all with shoulders squared and head high. It was all a game - a game he'd been born for - and Jacob played it very well. And rule number one (two, three and four, for that matter) was: Never show weakness.


"Gimme your shorts, Paul," Jacob barked. In mere seconds, with no questions, Jacob snatched the whizzing pants from the air. "Don't phase. Wait here," he ordered in clipped tones that told Paul he still wasn't in the clear.

In two steps, Jacob was pulling up the elastic shorts as he continued to stalk toward Sam and Emily's back yard, the rest of the Pack now trailing behind him at a far more deferential distance.

He broke the tree line just as the black wolf came charging toward him with a ferocious and antagonized snarl.

"Stop," Jacob commanded, his voice low and silky.

The beast skidded to a halt and then bared it's fangs.

And Jacob took stock. Sam's flanks were quivering, his muzzle dripping with foam and the girls were peering fearfully out of the back kitchen window. Jacob raised a reassuring hand and Emily nodded.

But the movement agitated the skittish animal, and it launched into frenetic pacing, back and forth, between the Pack and the house while snarls grated the afternoon.

"Phase back, Sammy," Jacob soothed, clasping his hands calmly before him.

The wolf lifted his muzzle from gleaming canines, its eyes were wild and wide. Jacob wouldn't normally dream of allowing such insubordination… but Sam was a broken man. He hadn't made it an order - not yet - he wanted to give Sam a chance to overcome his instinct on his own. But so far the man wasn't making much headway.

"Sam…" Jacob warned low, taking a step forward.

Without a sentient thought in his yellow eyes, the animal charged.

"Get back," he hissed to his Pack as he fell to a defensive crouch.

Just as the beast pounced, Jacob leaped into the air, curling his body in a tumble over the huge animal's back and landing on lissome steady feet. The black wolf whipped around, his eyes frenetically searching for his prey. Jacob followed him with a deft sidestep, and used the position to dive both hands into the scruff of black fur.

The giant wolf howled and scrabbled as Jacob's thick thighs crouched low for leverage. Gritting his teeth, he yanked the beast into his side and tugged the massive head at an awkward angle, leaning into a felty ear.

"Stop, Sam, stop," he whispered, deep and breathy with Alpha compulsion lacing the dulcet tones.

Like a switch had been flipped, immediately the animal settled into limp gasping pants in his fists. Jacob marginally relaxed his grip and waited for the man inside the beast to recover.

"Shh… you're good," he soothed, releasing one hand to smooth over the wolf's bedraggled fur. Sam wasn't taking good enough care of himself these days - since the baby, he was more obsessively focused on Emily than ever. Jacob would have to speak with her about it and maybe get Paul to spar with him to release his aggression - it was literally eating him alive.

"Phase back, Sammy," he coaxed, still keeping a hand gruffly buried in the black pelt.

The animal whined.

"C'mon, don't make me do it," he pleaded in a whisper. Jacob used the Order as sparingly as he could - they all had so little self-determination left.

Jacob felt the man struggling to tamp down his beast as convulsions rippled through the animal in his hand. Agonizingly slowly, fur disappeared from skin, body metamorphosed, and limbs reformed with a crackling like rice crispies in milk.

Finally Samuel Uley was standing hunched over to the ground with his Alpha crouched beside him. Jacob's hand - now at the nape of the man's neck - melted from constraining to comforting as he leaned his forehead against Sam's sweaty brow.

"Sorry, Jay… I jus-… I-… I.." his voice was rough and bucking over suppressed despair.

Jacob just held him while the man's body trembled and his breath heaved and rasped, valiantly trying to contain his angst. Finally, at his audible swallow, Jacob pulled back a few inches, letting his hand slip down to bowed shoulders.

"You okay, man?" he asked as flippantly as he could.

Sam squeezed his eyes shut a moment and nodded and then looked up into Jacob's searching gaze with bloodshot eyes. "It's just Em.. I couldn't stand it if-.. I can't-.."

Jacob interrupted his desolate confession with a firm clap on his shoulder. "Yeah I know, dude. I know," he assured him, letting the hard edges of Alpha command subtly shore up Sam's bleeding heart. "She's good. We're good," he affirmed, pulling back and his voice stretching taut with bolstering bravado as he straightened.

"And we all got us another fuckin' notch in our belts." He ended on his feet, pulling Sam up with him.

Embry could always be counted on for taking his emotional cues. "Damn straight!" he enthused, pacing forward and offering Sam an exuberant high five.

Quil's cackling laughter joined in as they bumped shoulders and fists. Jacob took several steps back and watched the four men try to subvert all their turmoil and heartache in exuberant machismo.

The door to the house ventured open and Jacob whipped around with a reassuring smile for the girl peeking out.

"Claire!" he greeted with the kind of blustering fake cheer no one ever dreamed of calling him on. "Get us two pairs of shorts, will you babe?"

She nodded briskly and disappeared into the house. Emily quickly appeared with a handful of clothes and a nervous smile as Jacob took several steps toward her, keeping his face frozen in a welcoming grin. He could feel the moment Sam saw her, and in a burst of air, he whipped by and scooped her up in his arms before her feet had even descended one stair.

Jacob watched the man cover the woman's face with frenetic kisses while she worriedly ran her hands over his face and shoulders.

Jacob laughed - it never sounded right these days, but any kind of mirth was a blessing. "Sam, put that junk in some trunks, dude!" he admonished while the rest of the boys cat-called.

Sam looked up, his face fatigued but finally somewhat human. "Em doesn't mind, do you?" he winked.

Emily just gave him a brilliant smile.

"Hey! Claire does!" Quil chortled as he crossed the yard toward the other two young imprints who were both blushing like plumbs at the show in the yard. Jared was hot on his heel and scooping up Kim in his arms.

"Sorry, girls," Sam called over his shoulder as he gently set his mate down, and obediently pulled on his shorts.

Sam took the remaining pair from Emily with a kiss to her forehead and then tossed it to Jacob.

"Emb? You mind?" Jacob threw it toward his friend. "The Rez girls already see a helluva lot more of Paul's package than they wanna," he called out to the woods theatrically (and subtly signaling that Paul was out of the doghouse - again).

"Jealous?" a voice laughed from the trees.

Their ragged little family was messed up - no doubt about it - but even so, it was all any of them had left so they clung to it fiercely.

"We should celebrate," Kim ventured quietly kicking her feet from Jared's lap on the back porch.

Eight sets of eyes snapped immediately to their Alpha, and Jacob plastered on a sunny grin. It used to be so easy to smile, but now it was just another one of many duties.

Without a word he leaped up on the porch and tugged open the outside icebox (that the Counsel solicitously kept well-stocked for a reason) and pulled out several long-necked amber bottles, tossing them around.

"Let's party!" he enthused, while whoops and giggles went around with the beer.

It was the last thing at this moment he wanted to do.


Luckily those things never lasted long. The imprinted wolves quickly paired off to fuck out the rest of their residual turmoil and Paul headed over to one of several ready lays he always kept queued in the wings.

Jacob and Embry walked alone back to their houses together just as the skies were finally opening up with a good solid rain.

"Damn, I'm glad to finally get the rest of this stench off," Embry sighed as he shucked water over his bare chest and biceps.

Jacob snorted and tipped his head back to the darkening dusk and let the rain shower a cleansing redemption over his face like tears. Moments like these were as close to true respite as he got these days.

The Rez was technically unguarded at the moment, but the scent of their recent kill should keep any wandering demons off their lands and Jacob's conscious for a while. Thankfully it only took Paul about twenty to bang a girl good but the imprinted wolves needed a good while longer to reconnect. There was no way he was going to send Paul and Embry back just because they could do it. He didn't like to give the imprinted wolves any preferential treatment; they went home to that every night any way.

They were all so tired… worn clear down to the bone. This was only the third vampire they'd encountered - other than that one meeting with the fucking Cullens - and it was a kill like this that made it all seem a whole hell of a lot less futile to be splitting 365/24/7 shifts between six wolves (well, five considering Sam's current state).

No, a few hours would do them all good, damn the consequences.

Jacob released a long sigh into the early rainy evening. Days like this made everything seem just a little more hopeless. This was going to be the rest of his life? He had only just begun living before it had all been taken away.

"You opening up tomorrow?" Embry asked quietly, drawing Jacob from his thoughts.

"Yeah," Jacob huffed, tipping his face down and slicking the rain from his eyes with a gruff hand. "Gotta finish the Clearwaters' Chevy before the weekend."

Each and every one of them had dropped out of school last year for obvious reasons. His dad and the Counsel had supported him, Paul and Embry in opening their own car shop on the Rez. Sam had a landscaping gig and Jared helped in his family store. Quil leeched off his mom and contributed bad jokes and daytime patrols.

Embry licked his lips and shoved his hand through his wet shaggy hair uncomfortably. "She's coming in soon, huh?" he asked quietly. He'd obviously been waiting for the right time for this question; Embry knew how important she was to him - hell, he'd been friends with her too.

Jacob blinked twice. His jaw clenched and he returned his gaze to the road. "Yeah," he rasped.

The next few minutes were spent in silence as they walked down the gravel back roads. The rain spat down on them from the heavens and ticked against leaves and mud.

"Whenever I go though, I want you to come with," Jacob murmured, keeping his eyes glued to his muddy bare feet, trudging valiantly on no matter how much his heart wanted to stop. Jared was his second because he was the only one who commanded the age-earned respect that kept Paul in line, but Embry was his closest friend. His even, calming nature had been blissfully spared by his transformation and Jacob could think of no time he'd need it more.

"Sure, Jay," Embry whispered.

Jacob nodded wordlessly as he pressed his lips into a thin straight line.


Every summer spent together over his life had been strung together to cultivate and culminate in undoubtedly his very best friend. Last year they'd only gotten a few weeks together before he'd started showing signs of the Phase and Billy had forbid him to see her without so much as a fucking reason why. She'd gotten some story about how Jacob had had to leave upstate for a family emergency though they might as well have just told her he'd died. Sometimes he wished they had, because the Jacob she knew was never coming back.

Over this last year, he'd voraciously read every increasingly worried email and text she'd sent him - and still they came regularly though he'd never once wrote her back. It seemed wrong to encourage her… to lead her on. In fact, he might have thought it better just to ignore that she was coming home, but he knew that girl, better than himself sometimes: Bella would track him down and follow him around with that stubborn frown until he told her what was wrong. Just like she'd done that summer he'd learned Rebecca was marrying that surfer. She'd forced him to vent, listened without judgement, and stood by him every step of the way.

Jacob's lips flirted with a smile.

Bella was determined and committed and she loved with the whole of her heart. And make no mistake, Bella loved Jacob. The old one.

But not like that.

They'd been platonic yet loving friends - an unusual relationship for a boy and a girl - each wordlessly understanding not to push boundaries because they both knew that a summer romance wasn't worth risking what they had. Jacob had always hoped someday they'd have more and now they could have had it.

And Jacob had nothing left to give.

Jacob had been sure that pretty much everything in him had been broken, but thinking about the look of betrayal that he'd leave in Bella's eyes made him realize there was still a little bit left to pulverize. If Bella had ever needed his friendship, it was now. No one wanted to pull up stakes for their senior year and change schools - if only her mother could have waited one measly year before following her new husband. But Renee had never sacrificed a fucking thing in her whole self-centered life.

That had always been Bella's job.

Now when she was down he was going to have to kick her and break off their friendship. He'd planned to insinuate drugs, or gangs or bitterness and testosterone. Anything really. And all of it would have been true.

That's what his wolf was - a chronic and debilitating addiction. It flooded through his veins with a burning malignant mandate from which he didn't have the slightest chance of recovering. It commandeered his sleep and every waking moment; an obsession that crouched in his gut like the predator he was.

"So, dude. Tomorrow at nine at the shop?" Embry asked.

Jacob fished himself out of his turmoil and looked up to see his red clapboard house at the side of the road.

"Yeah," he grunted.

"I'll take your morning patrol… just chill," Embry offered.

Jacob sniffed a laugh; as if he could ever take a break - when they were phased he always heard them in his head. Protecting, always protecting. "Thanks," he mumbled, glancing at his friend.

Embry's brow was drawn over dark eyes swimming in concern.

He knew…he knew.

Swallowing, Jacob nodded curtly and turned up the driveway to the house. He felt Embry's eyes on his back all the way up on the porch but Jacob didn't turn around. Willing his hands to be steady, Jacob shucked the water off his face, and stomped a few times.

"Hey dad," Jacob greeted dully, as he pushed open the screen door. It clattered shut behind him.

"How'd it go, son?" Billy was watching the nightly news on their crappy CRT television.

"We got 'er." The announcement came out in a growl.

"Her?" his father turned his wheelchair as Jacob passed without so much as a glance.

"Yup," he quipped, popping the "p" and bordering on rude.

Her… long red hair, willowy feminine body, milky breasts, frightened eyes. Her.

Billy cleared his throat in subtle reprimand. "Any problems?"

The corner of Jacob's lip lifted wryly as he pulled open the refrigerator. "None you care about," he bit out tartly as he leaned down and looked at the sparse pickings. It looked like it was ramen and eggs… again.

"Now wait jus' a damn second," Billy grumbled, his chair squeaking as he wheeled toward their kitchen. "I don't ask nothin' just for show."

Jacob squeezed his eyes shut in chagrin from behind the screen of the refrigerator door. He was being an impertinent ass, and he knew it. His relationship with his father had always been respectful and good… up until a year ago, but it was just so hard not to blame him now. When his sisters had bagged out after their mother had died, Jacob had picked up the pieces and taken care of his old man.

And this was his reward: the auspicious Black heritage.

His father didn't understand. Or he'd have prepped him, warned him… something.

Jacob huffed out a long breath and grabbed a carton of milk and straightened, throwing the door closed with a thunk. "Just Sammy shit," he mumbled.

His father cocked his head as his gaze narrowed and flitted briefly over Jacob's towering form. Jacob stoically stared him down in an outright dare to press for more. He wasn't in the mood to be charitable… hell, he was never in the mood these days.

Billy drew in a slow breath and tipped his head the other way, folding his hands in his lap in that damn paternalistic way of his. "So, Bella's gonna be around soon…" his voice was fraudulently calm. Testing.

And his words cut clear on down to the quick.

Jacob glared at him. Popping the milk carton open, he held his gaze as he tipped the half gallon down his throat. Somewhere in the middle of the draught, his body's hunger reared its head and then he was gulping, dribbles of milk running in rivulets down his face onto his chest.

Billy chuckled lightly. "You should pour that thing in a glass, instead of drinkin' it like some kinda…"

"ANIMAL?" Jacob roared, slamming down the carton so brusquely on the counter that the contents were jettisoned in a milky spray across the floor.

Billy's eyes widened and he sat up a little straighter. He licked his lips. "Son…" he whispered.

Jacob ground his teeth together as he let his head flop forward. He wasn't usually so disrespectful. His body was still pumped with adrenaline and testosterone and whatever other freaky hormone cocktail came with this thing. He closed his eyes and took a breath through his nose and released it slowly. And then another.

The television blabbed on from the living room over the tense silence between father and son and a song came on advertising how cool Chevy Sonic's were for the new generation. A generation he knew nothing about.

We are young
So let's set the world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun"

How fucking poetic. Jacob shoved a hand through his wet hair and grabbed a rag from the counter. He squatted and wordlessly started mopping up milk, his filthy feet catching his eye. It was a useless attempt at cleaning up; Jacob always tracked who knew what into their house. It was a fucking pigsty.

"Charlie called about the truck," Billy ventured, as Jacob moved to wipe the spray from the cabinets and icebox.

"It's ready," Jacob snapped.

"Yeah, I know," Billy murmured soothingly. "I was thinkin' you could come down with me tomorrow and bring it to her."

Jacob froze. Tomorrow? Bella was going to be here tomorrow. A lump swelled his chest and climbed on up his throat.

He wanted to see her… and they all knew why.

He was fairly sure she was immune to this insanity (and an imprint) since she wasn't cursed with this heritage, so it would only be a down payment on the long inevitable heartbreak.

But some sick, twisted, revolting part him….

It hoped.

And they all knew.

What they didn't know… what Jacob himself couldn't possibly fathom... was what he'd do if she was the one. At that thought the lump in his throat dropped down like a lead ballast into the pit of his gut.

"I think it'll be good for you to see her, Jake," Billy continued quietly.

Jacob's head snapped up from where he'd frozen in a half crouch, balanced by one numb hand on the fridge.

"You need a friend," he whispered. "So does she."

Jacob barked a hateful laugh, his face twisting into something scornful and acerbic. "No fucking way," he spat. "Bella needs a friend like me like a fucking hole in the head!"

Billy's lips were pursing, he could see his father desperately trying to pluck out the right next thing to say.

"Look, I'll go… get it over with," he spat in amendment, sparing the old man the trouble. "But just to make sure she's safe."

"Son," Billy crooned, rolling one revolution forward. "You do that real good. You keep us all safe." His rare gratitude was sullied with guilt and it was an ugly thing to hear. Maybe the old man understood just a little bit more than he let on.

Jacob's lips lifted in a wry sneer as he tossed the sopping rag onto the counter. "I need to make sure she's safe from me!"

With that Jacob spun around and stalked down the hall.



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