Author's note: Hello again! Thanks for all the reviews, follows and favourites as always. I really do have the best readers :)
Chapter forty five
Enemy. That seemed such an alien term to me. I'd never had cause to consider anyone or anything (besides my alarm clock) an enemy, not in the way I was supposed to consider Jacob to be now. But there we were, vampire and shape shifter, on two opposing sides. He was supposed to be the good, strong, protector and I the cold, evil undead monster. Yet, when I looked at Jacob I saw and felt nothing I had expected to. There was no inbred animosity or loathing and, even with my new knowledge, he still looked like the same old Jacob I had always known. I wondered if he felt the same, or whether my transition only cemented those sentiments he'd hurled at me in my dad's driveway.
My eyes ran up and down his impractically tall form and, with my newly heightened vision, took in every detail. He was dressed in nothing more than baggy jeans and a plain black t shirt and, after seeing the minimal amount of clothing his leader had also worn, I was realising that, like us, temperature appeared to have little effect on his kind. It was less than a second after coming to that conclusion that I noticed my use of "us" and "his kind". The mental segregation had already begun.
His feet were bare and caked in dirt, but, through the muck, I could see miniscule cuts all over the skin, as well as on his arms and neck. A particularly distinguishable scar ran from his left ear, down to his collar bone in a long pale streak and it was surprising that I had never it noticed before. It looked old, so he must have had it whilst I was human, so only just noticing it was either proof of how improved my sight was, or evidence that I had not paid enough attention to him previously.
When my eyes reached his face, I was surprised by how youthful he really looked. He wasn't many years younger than Sam, yet, whereas my earlier study of the pack's alpha had revealed all the fine lines human sight overlooked, Jacob's face was still the picture of glowing youth. Sure, he had a few more frown lines gathered above his eyebrows than his age should warrant, but that just betrayed the frequency of his grumpiness. When my irises finally landed on his, I marvelled at how truly dark in colour they were. It was hard, even for a vampire, to distinguish the difference between them and his pupils.
He didn't meet my gaze, but he'd been treating me to a study of his own. I wasn't entirely sure how long we'd stood opposing one another, but one of us needed to say something soon, otherwise the whole thing was a pointless waste of time. My patience was the first to run out.
"What do you want?" I asked, keeping my voice low and calm. I knew how bad an idea it was to let our tempers run away with us.
Jacob didn't answer right away, examining me a little while longer, before his eyes finally connected with mine and the emotion they contained could have knocked the breath out of me. He looked so…sad. His eyes held the expression of someone standing at the graveside of a loved one recently passed. Gone was all the anger and hatred, to be replaced with sorrow and…remorse? He was unable to look at me for longer than a few seconds, before his head dipped and his gaze fell to the ground at my feet. A deep sigh escaped his lips, before his head lifted again, but his eyes avoided me once more.
"I didn't expect you to seem so…you."
I wasn't sure what he meant by that and, to be honest, I was more interested in finding out what was going through his mind, but reckoned that outright asking him would only result in being told to mind my own business. I didn't know how to respond to his remark, so it took me a little while to figure out what to say.
"What were you expecting?"
His eyes were flitting all over the place and he seemed unable to keep still, as his hands were clenching and unclenching and his feet constantly shifted position. I subconsciously brought my defences up, ready in case his instability overruled his brain yet again.
"I don't know," he said softly. "To be honest, I didn't think I'd ever see you again." He brought a hand up to rub the back of his neck, as though trying to remove the tension obviously sitting on his shoulders. "When I found out that Edward had taken you, I thought then and there that it was over, that you were gone and all that kept going through my head was our last conversation together-" His face twitched in a slight grimace. "-of the last thing I ever said to you. I called you-"
"It's okay," I interjected, not wanting to revisit an experience that was clearly causing him pain.
"No, it's not!" he cried and I was shocked by the emotion in his voice. His face was contorted by an expression I'd only seen on it once before. It had been back at the reservation in La Push, when I confronted him in his shed for avoiding me. The way he'd looked at me, before turning away and saying we could no longer be friends, it had been downright heartbreaking and that was how he looked again, although there was far more desperation in the heartbreak this time.
"It's not okay, Bella, none of this is ever going to be okay! He fucking bit you!" A slight tremor started to distort his speech. "He's turned you into the one thing I'm supposed to hate most. The girl I once loved like a sister is now a creature I can't stand to even be around and I couldn't do a thing to stop it! I hate myself for that. I hate myself for blaming you, for, God help me, wishing this upon you. I was so pissed at you for deciding to stay with them-" He pointed to the mansion, referring to the Cullens. "-that I actually wanted, if only for a second, something like this to happen." Tears began to spout from his eyes and roll down his cheeks, but he didn't appear to notice. "And it did."
His voice cracked on that last line and I felt a similar splintering of my own emotions. I had no idea he felt that way, as all he'd ever displayed to me was rage. Now that I knew what he really was, I understood the anger, but the mourning in his voice was something I hadn't expected and wasn't ready to deal with just yet. It left me at a total loss as to how I should react. My first instinct was to hold him, but I wasn't sure that would be so well received anymore. Replying was another option, but I worried that whatever I said might just upset him further, something I very much wanted to avoid. Having placed the idea into my mind, however, all I could think about was running over to him and enclosing myself within his tight embrace, the way we used to before everything had turned south. It made my body itch and I had to use all my willpower to remain where I was. Wasn't it wrong to feel this way, to want to hug someone supposedly on the other side? Was it even allowed?
I didn't know if he felt the same, as he was currently calming himself down and rubbing his face to remove the tears. Eventually, his hands fell to his sides and he looked up at the sky, letting out a deep breath.
"This is so fucked up," he murmured, more to himself than anyone else.
"I'm sorry," I finally said, although I could barely manage more than a whisper. I didn't know what else to say and further thought made me realise there was nothing else to say.
Jacob's eyes rose then to meet mine again and, whilst the sorrow was still there, it was considerably more contained than before, which, oddly enough, made it all the harder to bear. Seeing someone upset was one thing, but watching them try to hide it was even worse.
"I'm glad you're still here," he said and my knees almost buckled. He saw my reaction to his statement and actually rolled his eyes, showcasing a little of the old Jacob that I hadn't seen for quite some time. "Yeah, yeah, you're a bloodsucker now, but, I'm not gonna deny the part of me that's glad you're still alive." He reconsidered the last word. "Sort of."
He sounded like he resented the fact that he didn't hate me and I couldn't help but feel the smallest of smiles tug at my lips. He still cared. I hadn't realised just how much I'd missed him until that moment. After his admission, would there be a possibility to forge a new friendship? Obviously, things couldn't go back to the way they were, but perhaps a different kind of amity could be created between us. I didn't say anything, not wanting to rush or get my hopes up too soon, but I couldn't quite believe how much this meeting between us had differed from my expectations.
"Thank you." I paused, watching his reaction and he appeared to be confused by my thanks, so I elaborated. "For still caring. Even if it's only a little, it still…it still means something to me that you do."
He wouldn't meet my eye, which suggested that I had hit my mark. He hadn't become angry or defensive and a part of me was desperate to push, but I knew patience would be required, so steered the conversation towards a different subject. "I…I never figured you for a werewolf," I remarked. "Have to admit it caught me by surprise when I found out."
"Yeah, me too," he said, but the humour of his words never met his face.
"Were you at the meeting?" I had a perfect recollection of everyone at the meeting and was curious to find out what he looked like as a wolf.
"No," Jacob answered and I could tell he wasn't happy about it. "Sam thought it best that I wasn't."
I nodded, before quickly realising I was out of things to say. After a prolonged silence, I began to wonder if Jacob was too, but then he started speaking again.
"Seeing as we're going to be working together now, I know that certain parts of the treaty are going to be reviewed, including territorial boundaries."
He hesitated and I saw how uncomfortable his posture had suddenly become, which intrigued me all the more.
"It means that we're probably gonna see a lot of each other from now on," he continued. "And…" he chewed the inside of his cheek. "And I want you to know that I'll do my best to be…nice."
"To me or the others?"
"Most of you. I can't make any promises around John Wayne, though."
I frowned, momentarily baffled by who he was referring to, until it clicked and I actually found myself almost giggling. He meant Jasper, of course and I desperately fought to keep the bizarre mental image at bay.
More silence hung between us, until Jacob straightened up and I realised he was leaving. I remained in my spot, although it was hard not to run over and hug him goodbye.
"I know Sam is going to contact you later," he said, his body shifting ninety degrees. "So, maybe I'll see you around."
He turned and began walking, but stopped after a few steps, before turning to face me again. "Can you do me a favour?" he asked and I nodded my consent. "Tell Carlisle that I'm sorry for what I said."
Without elaborating, Jacob started walking again, before breaking into a run and I was left standing there, utterly confused. Several questions ran through my head, as I wondered what he had said to Carlisle and what the Hell had changed to make him so apologetic. After all, he had, in fact, ended up being proven right by everything that had happened and I'd expected his typically stubborn self to use that as a weapon against me somehow, but he wasn't. He'd actually shown how much all of this had affected him and even offered to behave around the rest of the coven. Had Sam put him up to this? No, if that had been the case, he would have been a lot more argumentative and sullen. When he'd been shouting about my kidnap a few minutes ago, it was the most vulnerable I'd ever seen him and I knew it was all genuine. He really had come by and for himself.
With that in mind, I eventually turned and entered the mansion, wondering if any of the others had been listening. When I got inside I discovered that Rosalie and Emmett weren't even there-they'd left to hunt. Alice and Jasper were in their bedroom and I met up with Carlisle and Esme in the lower floor lounge. From their seats on the sofa, they both looked up at me expectantly, as I descended the stairs.
"How did it go?" Carlisle asked, standing up and approaching me at vampiric speed.
"Confusingly," I replied. "But okay."
"Confusingly?" he parroted, his expression mimicking his question.
"Yeah…" I said slowly, still trying to work out the whole thing for myself. Becoming a vampire hadn't improved my mental skills, apparently. "He said sorry…to you."
The confusion on his face lingered for a moment, followed by clarity and then the trademark Carlisle Cullen mask of inscrutability.
"So, what did he have to apologise for?" I pressed, wanting to know what Jacob had said.
"It's nothing," Carlisle assured me, brushing his knuckles against my cheek.
"It can't be-"
"I do not wish to be the cause of any more arguments between you two," he insisted. "He has apologised and I accept his apology, so we shall say no more of it." He punctuated his statement with a kiss to my temple and I was forced to begrudgingly comply with his wishes.
"So, what happens now?" I eventually asked, resting my head on his shoulder, as he slipped an arm around my waist.
"We need to start our own investigation into the Seattle Ripper murders," Esme said and I could tell this was something she and Carlisle had been discussing in great detail.
"How are we going to do that?" I asked.
"Patrols, as well as a few less legal activities," Carlisle answered.
I raised an eyebrow and I could have sworn I saw a hint of sheepishness in his expression.
"Basically, we are going to hack into the police records," Esme explained.
"You guys can do that?" I remarked, somewhat amazed. I was no technophobe and perfectly aware that millions all over the world partook in such activities. I'd never known a hacker myself and, to be honest, I found it hard marrying the image of a hacker with the vampires in front of me.
"Not all hackers live in their mom's basements, surrounded by comic books," Esme said, with a laugh. "How else do you think we are able to work and function in society? Those social security numbers have to come from somewhere."
I could have slapped myself for being such an idiot. It was laughable how that little detail had never caught my attention before, but, I supposed in comparison with discovering the existence of the undead, forging social security numbers wasn't high on the list of things I wanted to know about the vampire lifestyle.
"Before that, however," said Carlisle, grabbing my attention once again. "I want to talk some more with you about using your gift."
"My…shield?" It sounded weird describing something about me as a shield, like a soldier from that film 300 or something. I'd be lying if I said the thought of kicking Edward down a massive well in epic slow motion didn't flash through my mind at that moment.
"I know Jasper was enthusiastic about the idea," Carlisle continued. "But, ultimately, it is your choice and we have a limited amount of time within which to train you."
If I didn't know any better, I could have sworn he was trying to tactfully discourage the idea. Scratch that, I did know better and knew that was exactly what he was trying to do and I was tempted to follow his wishes, because the thought of going against the Volturi terrified me. Unfortunately, I also knew that sticking my head in the sand wouldn't do any good, either and if there was some way I could help the others, I wanted to do it, to no longer be a burden to them all. I'd been the weak link for a while now and it was high time I started becoming an asset to the coven, rather than a hindrance.
Despite how assertive that last train of thought may have sounded, I needed to know more about what my role would entail, before I could make any hard and fast decisions.
"How does my gift or talent or whatever actually work?" I queried.
"The shield is very much self explanatory," Carlisle explained. "As you already know, it blocks the talents of other vampires and, in some cases, can even be used as a force field to protect those around you."
"So, what, I just stand there and let it do its thing?"
"In a way. It requires tremendous concentration, though."
I considered the information for a short while, running through it all in my head. I wondered how long it would take me to perfect the skill, because, if the weather reports were to be believed, we only had about a fortnight before the Volturi arrived. Would that be enough time? Jasper seemed quite knowledgeable about it, so I figured it might be wise to talk to him.
"Carlisle," I began, knowing he wasn't going to be best pleased about what I had to say. "I'll do it."
He nodded slowly, his emotions hiding behind his mask. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. I want to help and, even if I don't manage to reach the level of creating that force field you said about, I want to be able to do something to help us."
"Very well," he acquiesced. "We can talk to Jasper when he gets back."
Jasper, it was safe to say, was not the most emotionally expressive of people; in fact, he made Charlie seem like Alice in comparison. So, when Carlisle informed him of my decision to work on my shield, the positively triumphant arrangement of his features seemed almost alien to me. He relished the prospect of training me and it made me wonder if I should regret my decision. Perhaps a part of him missed his old army days, even if the skills he acquired during that time were eventually put to terrible use by Maria, because he was ready to begin training immediately. It was only Carlisle's repeated insistence that forced him to wait at least a few hours.
I was both glad and reluctant about waiting, as time was most definitely of the essence, but I was also apprehensive about the process of using the gift. Would it hurt or physically drain me? Or, even worse, would it affect me mentally? What if I couldn't do it? That was probably my biggest fear of all, because it felt like a great deal was riding on the hope of me being able to protect the coven should things take a turn for the worst.
I shook the negative thoughts away, knowing they wouldn't help. I needed to focus if I was to perfect the use of my shield and worries would only distract me. Carlisle was throwing every kind of reassurance he could think of my way and I appreciated his efforts, desperately hoping they would be proven right, but I had to prepare myself for a lot of hard work. Besides working on my gift, Jasper had also recommended I learn some basic fighting skills.
All was to begin later that night, when it was fully dark and there was next to no chance of any human interference. A session of hunting was also planned to coincide with the training, meaning that, as I made my way towards the wide clearing in the woods surrounding Forks, I was filled with both excited and terrified. I had to maintain my trust in Jasper and force enough belief in myself in order to help me succeed. I could do this, I had to. A lot of lives were at stake and I'd already possibly lost one family (a thought that made my heart ache); I wasn't ready to lose another.
A/N: So, writer's block has finally hit. Gah! I'm sorry for taking so long and I'm glad I managed to get this latest chapter out just before the madness of the festive holidays begins.
I hope you enjoy this chapter (although I'll understand if not, as it isn't one of my favourites) and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!