A/N - due to the incoming apocalypse I wanted to post this before I lose power. Thanks as always to YNotJacob and Shawnie_F for being amazing BETAs and putting up with my horrible use of my native language. You guys are the best!
Also, I'll be doing NaNoWriMo in November so may not get more of this out until December. I'm working diligently to finish Volume 4 of my Serial Novel Two Moons of Sera and a new original WIP titled "White Chalk." Until then, check out my other titles listed on my profile page. I'll be back as soon as I can!
Love you all!
Part of her dreamed of running, of being like Jacob and feeling the ground beneath her feet. But she'd done enough of that. It was time to hold on.
Bella and Jacob sat in the living room in silence, listening to Charlie getting ready for bed. They held hands, but neither found much comfort in it. They were both waiting for the other shoe to fall. There had rarely been silence between them, even when they were angry, even when they wanted nothing more than to shut the other out of their lives, it was impossible. Tonight, the quiet hung like a noose.
"Why don't we go outside?" Bella suggested, eyeing her father's furniture. It wasn't much, but he really didn't need to have it all destroyed. Perhaps if they were outside, with fresh air to dispel the scent of vampire, Jacob would be able keep from phasing when Edward arrived. Plus, she was terrified of what Charlie would see if Jake did phase.
"I know you are now, but let's just sit on the back porch. I could use the fresh air."
"I don't need you mothering me," he growled.
"What do you suggest then? You won't do what I ask, you seem to think you have something to prove." Bella hated the whining in her voice, but she was exhausted and didn't have any energy left to fight with him. She dropped his hand in frustration, glaring at him.
"What? What do you think you have to prove?"
"That I'm... that I'm better for you!"
"I already know that, isn't that why we're here?" Bella was at her wits end. What more could she possibly give him? Her love? Done. Her body? Done. Her soul? Done. There was nothing left to give him, but she would if she could, just to stop the tortured look in his eyes.
"I... I want to be human for you!"
"Jake," she melted at the admission. "Why do we have to keep doing this?"
"Because I hate it." He lowered his head into his hands and pulled at the hair at his temples.
"I know, but it's going to take time, and we're both tired. Tonight isn't the time to prove anything. Tonight, I need you. I don't care what form you're in." Placing her hand against his upper arm, Bella sighed at the tightness beneath her touch. He was already so close to the edge. It had been so long since he'd tried to be human, the strain of it wore on his body. "Come on," Bella took his hand and led him to the back door.
Outside, they sat on the porch steps and watched the forest line for any movement.
"The pack's nearby," he stated flatly.
"Can you hear them?"
"Yeah, they're about three quarters of a mile west, but I'm sure they know we're here."
"You can hear them that far?" She turned to him, surprised.
"Yeah, didn't used to, but now... you know, Alpha."
"You're not their Alpha though."
"I will be." The statement was flat, a predefined truth. Like: the sky is blue, the kitchen needs to be painted, Jacob Black will be Alpha of the La Push Pack. There wasn't any sense in questioning it.
Before she had a chance to say anything, Jake tensed. Glimmers of light danced around his form as he fought the need to phase. He stood, dropping his hand for her to hold.
Edward stepped into the circle of light cast by the bare bulb her father used for the back porch. Seeing him, Bella cowered, instinctively pulling away from from her fiance. Something was different... wrong.
"Bella," he said her name the same as always, elongating the "e" and flicking his tongue at the end of the "a". But instead of charming her, she was chilled. Her mouth dried and her tongue stuck in her throat, her memories of him fought with her sudden fear.
He stood before her, the light dancing on his pale skin, but instead of porcelain perfection he appeared wane. His flesh was gray and sallow, the texture waxy and tough. When he smiled, she could see the strain of the expression on his face. It wasn't natural. How was this the same man she had loved so desperately? How was this the man she was going to marry?
Edward stepped forward, holding out a hand to her, but she clung to Jacob. Maneuvering herself behind him, seeking safety from what stood before her. This can't be Edward, she told herself, shaking her head and looking at him again.
"What's going on?" He tilted his head, but the movement was jerky, not his usual smooth elegance.
"What... What are you?" Bella's voice shook as she spoke.
Edward's eyes popped wide, showing the color of his eyes. She had been so wrong, they weren't amber, they were a yellowish-green. The color of puss and infection. The color of death.
"What do you mean?" He smiled, and instead of being entranced by his beauty, the pit of her stomach dropped. She could smell him, smell the rank staleness of death on his breath. Her stomach lurched and she stumbled backwards. She had kissed him, let him watch her sleeping. Chills of revulsion wracked through her body.
"Bells?" Jake turned to her, concern for the woman he loved stronger than the wolf's need to tear, rip, destroy.
"Is that... Is that what you've always seen?" She shuddered and pointed to Edward, her finger shaking.
"What have you done?" Edward turned to Jacob, sneering his refined features, pulling his lips up into a grimace that showed his unnaturally white teeth. They gleamed in the lamplight, menacing.
"Oh my God..." A scream bubbled from deep within her as she watched her fiancé.
"I think you should leave," Jacob stood, shielding Bella from Edward's gaze.
Instead of responding, Edward flattened his features, transforming himself into a mask. It was disconcerting how easily he hid his feelings away, how easily he returned to neutral. Like pushing a button.
Bella stood on the top step, peering at Edward from over Jacob's thick shoulder. "What did you do to me?" Bella squeaked out, forcing herself to look directly at Edward. "Why do you look so..."
"Dead?" Jake offered when Bella was unable to finish her sentence.
Bella's gaze returned to Jacob and he gave her the weakest smile in his entire life, but it was all he had. "You knew," her voice was ragged, "you knew what he was, that he... Are they all so...?"
Jacob nodded. "I told you Bella, they're monsters."
She nodded and gulped.
"Bella, love, come with me, lets get you home. You can talk to Alice and everything will be fine." She could feel Edward's words working their way through her brain, like a parasite searching for a place to attach and feed.
"Stop it! Whatever you're doing to me, stop! I'm not going with you. I can't believe I ever..." The magnitude of the mistake she had almost made gripped her by the throat. She couldn't breathe, her life was days away from being over. If Jacob hadn't... She lunged to the railing and retched, wishing there was something in her stomach to vomit. She wanted everything out of her, every place he'd touched, every moment she'd spent with him.
"Bella," Edward stepped forward, but Jake was faster, not even trying to keep up the appearance of being human.
"Stay away from her," he growled, he crouched slightly, ready to spring.
Edward stopped short. "What have you done? Why can't I read your thoughts, dog?"
"You can't?" Jacob asked with a satisfied smirk.
Bella took a deep breath, trying to reign in her body's reaction. She couldn't look at him, so she stared at the trees behind his head and tried to remember how much she loved him. She owed him an explanation. But when he looked at her, she knew it was an excuse, she didn't owe him anything, she just couldn't think of any other way to make him go away.
"Edward, I'm sorry about leaving like I did, but..." Edward raised one eyebrow at her. It was the only part of his face that moved and all she could think was how unnatural it was. "I'm calling off the wedding, and... and everything. I'm staying here."
"Bella, love, that's fine!" He took another step forward earning a rumbling growl from Jake. He was barely maintaining his form as it was, and every time Edward approached her, his control weakened. "You don't have to go through such dramatics though, you could have just told me. Alice will be devastated of course, but you and she'll have forever to get over it."
"No, you don't understand," she pressed forward, her heart pounding in her throat. The need to be away from him, to lock all her doors and windows was overwhelming, but he would never leave unless she explained. "I don't want to have forever. I don't want... I don't want you."
"What?" Edward strode forward, closing the last few steps between himself and Jacob. The wolf clawed beneath his skin, his body vibrated. "Get out of my way, dog."
"No. You will not go any closer to her." Jacob pushed Edward, knocking him backward 20 feet, but Edward landed on his feet as if he'd hopped. The motion was cat-like, landing in graceful menace, ready to pounce.
"Stop!" she yelled and walked next to Jacob, taking his hand in hers. She clung to his arm, but couldn't tell which one of them was shaking. Maybe it was both. Edward's eyes flinched.
"Is this why Alice can't see you?"
"I'm sorry Edward, I really am, but you offered once to leave and let me have a normal life. Please, I need you to go."
Edward opened his mouth and screamed. It filled the air with a shattering screech that almost pushed Bella to her knees. But she held onto Jake, pulling from his strength. Edward's eyes lost their calm humanity and bulged forward. His scream forced his mouth wide open. If he had been human his jaw would have broken, but since he was already dead, it just gaped with blackness. His body crouched, ready to attack.
Jacob's body pulsed with his need to phase. Shoving Bella behind him he whipped off his shirt, but before he gave over to the primal drive, something large and black shot through the darkness and tackled Edward.
"She's mine!" Edward wailed as the black wolf shook his body from side to side before throwing it against the trees.
"Get inside," Jake commanded but Bella stood her ground. Going inside would only bring this whole disaster closer to her father. "Bella..." his growl was feral and his shape blurred. He lost control before she could say anything and fur burst from his body. His perfect human figure grew and elongated, swelling with power, until the russet wolf stood before her, lips curled with the need to kill.
The wolf snapped his head back to where the black wolf and Edward still grappled, but he didn't leave his imprint's side. Bella placed a hand on his side, terror filling her whole body.
Sam's wolf had Edward by the leg and flung him across the yard, slamming Edward into the side of her father's garage. With an earth shattering crack, the garage crumbled around Edward's body. Inside a light turned on.
"Bella!" A high voice caught her attention. When she turned it wasn't the sweet smile of a friend she found, but the mask of a monster.
"Alice?" Bella placed her weight against Jake, letting the wolf carry her full load.
"Your father is awake and while I can't see your future," she glared at the wolf, "I can see his. I need to get Edward out of here."
Jacob growled and Alice lowered her head. "Please, can I just get him, I'll talk to him, get him to understand how things have... changed." Her eyes flitted up and darted between Bella and the wolf.
While the creature before her stirred nothing in her heart but disgust, Bella's memory of Alice, her best friend, called to her. She stood up and faced the pixie sized vampire and nodded.
Alice's face broke out into what would have been called a smile, if it weren't for the way her eyes drooped and her lips were cracked with death.
"Thank you... both." Then Alice was gone and Jake phased back.
"Sam!" he called out, pulling the black wolf's attention away from the monster emerging from the destroyed garage. "Let them go."
Jake's voice was low and thick with authority, Sam bowed his head and didn't move until Alice had recovered her brother. With an inappropriately friendly wave, she said goodbye and whisked Edward away into the woods.
As their silhouettes disappeared into the forest, the back door swung open and a very tired, very pissed Charlie Swan stepped out, gun in hand.