Author: Exquisitelyugly

Pairing: J/B

Rating: M – sexual situation, language, underage drinking

Genre: Romance/Drama, AU

Summary: Jacob and Bella grew up together on the reservation, but Jake's life took a different turn after he lost his mother and they lost contact. Stealing, sleeping around, and drinking became distractions to numb the pain of loss. When he encounters Bella again, can he figure out what he really wants?

Jake had just lost his mom. His sisters were busy dealing with their own grief. Billy was deteriorating right before his eyes. So, he sat just inside the forest, out of sight where no one could see him. He looked out toward the road and saw Jared and Paul go into the little market right off the reservation and come out laughing. They pulled out Twinkies, gum, and a bottle of soda from inside their jackets.

It was the first time he'd witnessed stealing. And he wanted to try it, too.

Jake looked up at the cloudless sky. It was a rare, pleasant day in La Push. He laughed when he felt a tug on his hand. His date - Laura, no, Lauren, or was it Lisa? - was holding back, looking at the cliffs in trepidation.

"Oh come on, Lisa," he said with a grin. When she didn't react, he relaxed. Oh good, he'd gotten her name right. "I've done it before. You'll be fine. And I'll make sure it's worth your while afterward," he added, giving her his best seductive smile. He knew it would work; it always did.

They stepped up to the edge. Jake watched her as she looked over, fear in her eyes. There were only a handful of girls who jumped from this height: Leah Clearwater, his sisters when they'd lived here, and Bella Swan.

He pushed that thought away and squeezed Lisa's hand. She gave him a small smile, so he let her take the lead. When they jumped, he was sure her scream could be heard for miles. The only non-Native who had jumped from here and never screamed once was Bella.

Later, he found himself in the back of his Rabbit, Lisa bouncing on his lap. He idly watched as her breasts bounced right in front of him. She did have a really nice rack. He dropped her off soon afterward. He was walking back toward his place when he heard Paul.

"Yo man," Paul called out. "You really got the hang of the use-'em-and-lose-'em, didn't you? And Lisa's a dirty girl."

Paul had a conspiratorial smirk on his face, but Jake just nodded and high-fived him. He did sleep around, but he made his intentions known and was honest about what he wanted. He also treated them respectfully. He couldn't say the same for Paul or Jared.

Jake managed to shake Paul off and continued on to his garage, which he had converted into a tiny, one-floor apartment as well. The kitchen bled into the living room, which bled into a bedroom not much bigger than the closet. Jake dug around in the fridge and found one frozen meal left. He zapped it and dropped down into an armchair to eat. Staring out the tiny window, he looked past the little copse of trees, toward the bend in the road that led to the Swan and Clearwater house.

Bella giggled and squealed when Jake dumped his bucket of water over her head. "Jacob Black! You're going to pay for that!"

She chased him, but she wasn't fast enough. Suddenly, she stopped and stumbled in the sand. Concerned, he'd gone back to her, only to end up with sand shoved down his bathing suit. As he chased her, he could hear Charlie, Sue, and his parents laughing.

Jake leaned back in his chair. He'd slept with a number of women, but Bella was always the one that appeared in his dreams and who he thought about recently. He'd spent a lot of time with her growing up: playing together, swimming, and hanging out with each other's families. After he lost his mom, though, he pushed everyone away. He occasionally wondered what she was up to, though. What he really was curious about was what it'd be like to get Bella into bed, but he wasn't sure how to approach that.

He knew she didn't approve of him or what he did, but he didn't have it in him to really care about that.

The next day, the opportunity presented itself quite unexpectedly. Bella kept so busy with school, work, and friends that he hardly ever saw her even on their small reservation. Since school had just ended, and she hadn't gone to Arizona to see her mother for once during the summer, she was at the beach with a couple of her classmates from high school.

Jake sort of remembered Jessica and Angela from when they were younger, but he didn't have that many friends outside of the reservation anymore. Paul and Jared met him on the beach and they began eyeing up the girls immediately. He slapped them both on the back absently in greeting, but he squinted until he spotted Bella. Her long brown hair had been cut to shoulder-length and he saw light honey colored streaks.

She wore black sunglasses and a pale blue bikini. Hey eyed her figure closely, impressed. She was a little pale, but that didn't matter.

"You hittin' on one?" Jared asked. He eyed them up like they were a particularly nice cut of meat he wanted to devour.

Jake shrugged his eyes still on Bella. "Maybe."

He felt a flash of irritation when Paul began sizing Bella up. "Small boobs, but cute face," he mused. "She has quite a mouth, too. It'd look good wrapped around…"

He trailed off when Bella stood up. Jake's fist was clenched, but she beat him to it. "Wrapped around what, Lahote? Go ahead, tell me." Her voice had an edge to it, a bravado that surprised him.

She was staring straight at Paul who'd been surprised into silence. He didn't do well with women who had backbone. He liked them weak and pliable. "That's what I thought," she said coolly when he remained silent. "You couldn't handle me anyway."

Jake hid his laugh with a cough. She'd gotten mouthier over the years. He liked it. She picked up her towel, her friends following suit. As they left, her eyes met his. She flicked her sunglasses up, eyeing him speculatively, and finally said, "Come on, Jess, Angela, let's get out of here."

Jake didn't really expect much, but he felt another stirring of irritation. Well, it would be a challenge, and he was feeling up to it. Paul huffed about butch girls, thinking they were so tough, but he ignored him. Bella grew up with Sue and Leah Clearwater, two of the toughest women he knew. It was natural for Bella to be the same way.

That evening, they went trolling in Port Angeles. In a convenience store, Jake lifted a pack of cigarettes while the cashier was preoccupied. He'd always been lithe and fast, and Paul and Jared had stealing down to a science. They blocked the camera while Jake did what he had to. Outside, he leaned against the wall in an alley, knocking loose a cigarette and lighting it. Paul and Jared had somehow managed to swipe a six-pack of Mt. Pleasant Porter and had split it up between them to smuggle it out.

Jake swallowed and then took a few drags. He squinted through the smoke, eyeing the women that strolled by. "Dude, that one's got a huge rack," Paul commented. He finished the last swallow of his beer, tossing the bottle toward the trash can as he strolled after them. It was their usual ritual: split up, chase a girl down, and have a go if she was willing.

Jared spotted a cute blonde and left, too. Jake just leaned against the wall, finished his second drink, and continued to smoke and brood. He wasn't sure he was that into it today, but just then a petite brunette caught sight of him in the alley. "You okay?" she asked.

He smiled slightly, wondering what kind of woman approached a man in an alleyway even if it was just to see if he was okay. "Yeah, I'm good," he said casually. "How about you?"

She grinned and he saw the tell-tale look. This little brunette with the pouty lips made him think of Bella, but this girl looked like she wanted something. Who was he to deny that? Ten minutes later, he was deeper in the shadows of the alley, the brunette on her knees in front of him. He leaned his head back against the brick wall, his hips bucking forward slightly, and closed his eyes. When he felt the heat build in his groin, he grunted, and saw streaks of honeyed hair in his mind's eye as he came.

"What the hell is going on back here?" A male voice sounded nearby. It was way too close.

He caught sight of them, and, striding forward, said, "This is a public area. You have the right…"

Jake hoisted the girl over the fence, pulling himself up after her while the cop shouted for them to stop. He was hauling ass, though, the girl laughing breathlessly as he dragged her along. Once they'd outrun the cop, he smirked, feeling a little more eager. So, in another abandoned alley, he took her against the wall. Once she'd left to go meet up with her friends, Jake tucked himself back into his pants and went to meet Paul and Jared.

A couple days later, he found out there was going to be a big bonfire in celebration of summer, and school being over for the local teens on the reservation, so he decided he was going to crash. Bella might be there, after all. That night, he threw on a pair of jeans and a brown button-up shirt. Typically, he didn't care what he wore, but maybe preppy would work.

The bonfire was blazing and people milled around laughing when he got there. It didn't take long for people to notice him. It also didn't take long for them to give him a wide berth. He spotted his old friends Embry and Quil who stared at him blankly. He felt that uncomfortable twitchiness he'd been feeling lately when he saw or thought about his old life. He wasn't sure what to make of it.

He felt his lips curl upward in a slight smile when he spotted Bella standing with Leah, her stepsister, and a few of their mutual friends. Her hair was in a braid, loose strands swinging around her pale face. Her eyes sparkled a little in the firelight and she wore jeans that emphasized her legs and ass. Her t-shirt had some kind of logo on it that he couldn't read.

He watched her and waved Paul and Jared away when they arrived. They knew when the other was on the prowl, so they backed off. Once Bella was alone, he moved in quickly. She wouldn't be alone for long.

She was looking out over the water when he moved up beside her. He didn't say anything right away, but she gave a small sigh. "Jacob. What are you doing here?"

He shrugged briefly. "You look so pretty in the moonlight. It seemed like a crime for you to stand alone."

She laughed, surprising him. "Wow. Do you use that line on all women or is it just me because I'm one of the few left on the reservation you haven't slept with?"

Well, his reputation was certainly well-known. Jake hadn't been sure if Bella was aware of it. He didn't really advertise it like Paul or Jared, but he didn't really hide it either.

"Did it work?" He gave her his charming smile. He'd used it on occasion to get more resistant women to sleep with him. He made sure to please them extremely well in return for falling for his charms.

She just shook her head at him, her brown eyes cool. "No."

"Bummer. I could really make it worth your while," he said, trying his hand at a teasing grin. She'd be more of a challenge.

"Oh, I have no doubt you have major skill in that department," she said dryly. "But I don't do players that steal or get into fights for the hell of it. So, you can save your breath. I don't know what happened to you," Bella finished, her voice colder than before.

Jake watched as she walked away. He turned back toward the ocean, watching the crash of the waves. Well, Bella was certainly a tough nut. He glowered slightly at the other women there, twitchy again at her words, and strode off into the woods. He didn't care where he was going. He just wanted to go.

Paul and Jared were near the road, chatting up a couple girls. He could join them, screw one of the girls brainless, but continued on until Jared called out to him. "Hey man, get over here!"

His heart was telling him to keep going, but he rarely listened to that, so he followed his dick instead. Later, he found himself in bed at one of the girls' houses, driving home his frustration in the form of a sweaty romp. When she screamed, he cringed. He made his excuses quickly and left, but what he realized after the sexual haze was that it was right by Bella's house.

And she was looking out the window at him.

Apparently she'd heard the banshee wail of sexual completion. He met her eyes, and she stared at him with an expression of mild disgust. And maybe disappointment? He wasn't sure, but it was nothing new. Jake lowered his head and continued on.

He continued his pattern of stealing, screwing around, and ended up in another fight when he went after a woman with a boyfriend. Jake came out the victor, but he had a bruised lip, swollen eye, and his wrist was probably sprained. Once he made it back to La Push, he went into the convenience store and bought some extra-strength Excedrin. He never stole from the reservation store; it was too close to home and he had some scruples.

Wincing, he swallowed the pills immediately and held some ice on his wrist. He'd been so increasingly restless lately that he couldn't even stay in his make-shift apartment, so he headed out and walked and walked through the woods. Much to his surprise, he ended up at the little cemetery.

He wasn't sure why he was here, but his feet had a mind of their own. Jake was standing in front of his mother's grave. It felt like a fist had closed around his heart. A single ray of weak sunlight highlighted her name. Sarah Black. Beloved Wife and Mother. He knelt down, his ankle beginning to throb. He'd messed that up as well apparently. His face hurt. His throat hurt, too, and he realized why when he felt the cold tickle of a tear sliding down his cheek.

Jake ignored it, sniffing once, and remained on his knees. He didn't care that his body hurt. Tracing a finger over the dented letters of her name, he remembered how she used to tell him he could do anything. Well, he was good at screwing, stealing, and fighting. She'd think he was a failure.

There was a rustle behind him. He turned, painfully, and saw Bella standing nearby. She was in front of another marker, and he remembered a year ago she'd lost her friend Emily in a car accident. Bella had been in the car with her and had survived.

Her expression was sad, her shoulders drooped, but she was watching him kneeling in front of his mother's grave. Feeling conspicuous, Jake coughed uncomfortably and managed to stand up. He needed more Excedrin. She laid down flowers on the top of the stone and said, "Another fight, Jacob?"

He felt ashamed as if it was his mother speaking. She knew, though, and approached him warily. "Come on," she sighed.

He wasn't sure what was going on, so he just followed her. She led him back to her house and he hesitated.

"No one's here," she said calmly. He started to give her his best come-hither leer, but she cut it off abruptly with one look. "Don't even, Jacob. I'm no expert, and I've only had a couple of classes so far for my nursing degree, but I can handle cleaning you up. You did a really piss-poor job of it."

He sat when she ordered him to. She laid out a butterfly bandage, a wet cloth, and some ointment. Jake closed his eyes, tired, and appreciated the touch of her fingers on his chin as she tilted his head up. Wincing at the pain, he suffered in silence as she cleaned the cuts on his face. She left them alone after applying ointment, but she applied the butterfly bandage to the cut just under his lip.

Jake felt a buzz as her fingers brushed against his lips. He never felt a real urge to kiss a woman until just then. She pushed his shoulder back slightly, pressing a clean, cold washcloth against his eye. "Jacob, I know what you're thinking. Your pursed lips, leaning toward me, and looking all pitiful isn't going to work. I wasn't born yesterday."

He felt the urge to laugh and surprisingly, he did. It'd been a long time since he laughed. His reward was her very brief almost-smile before she retained her coolness. "Okay," she said. "All patched up. Maybe you should think next time before you get into yet another fight."

"I won," he said, shrugging.

Bella just rolled her eyes at him. Unexpectedly, the door flew open and Leah strode in. She took one look at Jacob and her dark eyes narrowed. "Bella, what the hell are you doing?" If Jake thought Bella's scary voice was intimidating, Leah's was a notch above that.

"I was doing a good deed," she said with a sigh. "Don't worry, Leah."

Jake thanked Bella, easing away from the dagger stare of Leah, and hurried out the door. He started to walk away, but paused when their voices carried out the open window to him.

"Bella, don't you dare. Jacob Black is a piece of crap. He'll play you, screw you, and leave you. He's not worth it."

The ache in his heart was a new one.

"Leah, I know what he's like. I know how to take care of myself and just because I helped him out doesn't mean I'm going to fall in bed with him," Bella said exasperated.

"You better not," Leah warned. "Tom broke your heart. Don't let yourself be charmed by the snake; it'll happen all over again."

Jake tuned out then. Out of sorts, he started to walk away, but suddenly Leah was striding toward him. He winced when she jabbed him the chest. "You hurt Bella, I'll hurt you. Understand, Black? Keep your dick in your pants and stay away from her."

He rose to his full height, staring down at the fiery Leah Clearwater, and said snidely, "Maybe you could use a little push in the bush, Leah. But then again, I'd rather not have my dick shrivel up."

She snarled at him, but he turned his back and left. He didn't need this, especially right now.

That night, he dreamed of holding Bella against him, smelling the soft scent of lilacs.

A couple of weeks later, he ran into Bella on the beach. She was sitting by the tide pools, enthralled with the critters in it, and he almost smiled. He'd been so busy working at the garage, spending time in Port Angeles on the hunt and finding no one worthy, that he'd barely seen her lately. Jake wondered what the hell he was doing as he made his way over to her. What was he expecting?

She started when his shadow fell over the pool. "Oh. Jacob. What are you doing here?" There was an edge of suspicion in her voice, but he could see she'd softened a little toward him since seeing her in the cemetery.

He sat down next to her, though not too close. "I just felt like being on the beach," he said with a shrug. "I had some free time."

They watched the starfish wiggle around in silence for a few minutes. "My mom used to bring me here when I was upset or pissed off," he said. He felt like an idiot as soon as he said it. Why was he telling her this?

She eyed him suspiciously and finally replied, "I actually remember that. It is pretty relaxing here. My dad did the same thing with me, but mainly just because I was obsessed with the life inside."

He gave her a half-smile. "And I remember that."

They were both quiet, though Jake could feel her questioning gaze. He knew she wanted to ask what happened to him, but didn't seem to have the nerve. And to be honest, he wasn't sure what the hell was wrong with him.

So, instead, he hesitantly took her hand. Alert, she gave him a look, but allowed him to lean in to kiss her. Her lips were full, warm, and she tasted really good. Like pineapples. He urged her lips apart, touching her tongue with his, and he gripped the back of her neck. He angled the kiss, delving deeper into her mouth, and she whimpered slightly.

Suddenly, she pushed him back and looked confused. "Jacob, what are you doing? I told you, I'm not going to fall into bed with you."

She stood up, looking agitated, but Jake took her hand. The insinuation sort of stung, but he pushed it aside. "I was just kissing you," he said stiffly. "I'm sorry if I crossed a line."

Bella's cheeks flushed and she wouldn't meet his eyes. "I… look, I should be going. I have a shift at the coffee shop, so…"

He didn't say anything. She hesitated before whispering, "Bye." He sat there for awhile after, lost in his thoughts.

Bella stared out the window of the coffee shop, oblivious to her boss calling her name. She snapped to suddenly when she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Bella, are you okay? You look a little pale," Miranda said with some concern.

"I'm s-sorry," Bella stuttered. "I don't know what's wrong with me today." She hurried back behind the counter to continue taking orders and filling the display case with baked goods. She knew what was wrong with her, though. Jacob Black had gotten under her skin big-time. Bella didn't trust him, and she didn't like what he did, but he'd shown a glimmer of something else recently. Plus, his kiss had affected her more than she'd have liked.

His mouth had felt incredible. Ashamed at herself, Bella kept herself busy to push those thoughts out of her head. At the end of the shift, her feet were aching. She practically had to drag herself through the parking lot to drive home. When she got there, she could hear music thumping from Seth's room. Her little brother was going through the loner stage; hiding out in his bedroom, listening to music, and looking at girly magazines. She was glad he was still a sweet kid at sixteen, though. That age was temperamental that was for sure. Bella remembered going through it herself only a few years ago.

She closed her bedroom door behind her, dropping onto her purple bedspread, and stared up at the ceiling. Bella groaned when she heard the tell-tale thumping from Leah's room. She and Embry were going at it again. Leah had sworn her to secrecy about the fact that she was dating him; she just wasn't ready to tell anyone she had real feelings for a guy. Pulling a pillow over her head, Bella wished she'd do it at Embry's house for once, though. She hadn't had sex since Tom and that was almost five months ago.

Jacob Black was invading her thoughts even though she didn't want them to. He was so incredibly beautiful. His dark eyes, full lips, and his body, lean and ripped in all the right places. And his silky hair begged to have fingers tangled in it. Bella wasn't sure if he was a good person, though. He'd changed so much since Sarah had died and his sisters left. Billy had been inconsolable and diabetes had forced him to remain in a wheelchair. He'd been bitter, depressed, and Jake had no one to lean on.

Maybe he could've leaned on her, but he chose a life of stealing, drinking, and as he got older, screwing a lot of women. It upset her, disgusted her, but who was she to judge? Jake had been through a lot. She avoided him, though. School, work, and friends took up her time so it was easier. It'd been quite awhile since she'd even seen Jake before their encounter on the beach a month ago. He'd grown up, though the bitterness was evident in the lines of his mouth, and his eyes were either cold or blank.

In the cemetery, she'd seen something in him, though. She had no thoughts of rescuing him or saving him from himself; she was smart enough to know better than that. She'd taken pity on him, though, and felt a surge of sadness when she saw how beat up he was, the tears, and how broken he looked. He hid it well, but it was there. She wasn't sure why she helped him, but had been glad she had.

Bella started when her door banged open. Leah was standing there, hand on hip, and said, "What are you doing, Swan? Hiding from the sexy sounds?" She gave a provocative hip thrust, and Bella snorted and rolled her eyes.

"Please, Clearwater, don't flatter yourself. You just keep banging Embry on the sly."

Leah smirked and sat on her bed. "Girl's got to have some sex. You should think about that, too, though not with Jacob Black," she said quickly.

Bella ignored her and sat up. "I'm not stupid. I never was."

"Yeah, especially since I made you wise up," Leah said.

It had been rough growing up with Leah and Seth as a kid. Well, not Seth so much. Leah had been really hard on her. Renee had left her and Charlie. She went back to Arizona, though she kept in touch with her. She'd only been two years old and Charlie had remarried Sue when she was almost five. She still remembered at the age of ten coming home from school in Forks that one day.

"Daddy, daddy," she said excitedly. "I got an A on my math test! And the teacher gave me a sticker. And said we could go on a field trip with the money we raised!"

Leah had been kicking the corner of the couch, looking sulky. Seth had just looked really sad. Charlie had smiled at her, looking pained yet happy for her. She didn't understand. Leah and Seth didn't come to school with her, which she was sort of glad for because Leah pushed her around a lot, but she decided to be nice.

"Can Leah and Seth go, too?"

"Don't be stupid," Leah had snapped. "We can't go with you."

Confused, Bella looked from Leah to Charlie and Sue. "Why not?"

Sue brushed her hand down Leah's hair who jerked away at the touch. Sue looked sad when she met Charlie's eyes.

"Because, stupid, we don't go to the same school as you," Leah said snidely.

"Leah, honey, don't call her…" Sue started to say, but Leah interrupted.

"It's different for us," Leah added, staring hotly at Bella. "We're Native American and you're not. We don't get the same privileges as white kids. Just look at the tiny piece of land we get as a reservation. Will they make it bigger or safer for us? No." She stormed off, and Bella started to cry.

Her dad had sat her down to explain it to her. It took a couple days, but Leah apologized for yelling at her. Bella had felt stupid and silly not knowing things were different for people due to race. She'd become a champion over the years, helping Leah, Sue, and Seth campaign for improvements. It was a slow-going process and they continued to work at it to this day.

Bella's ignorance had turned to strength and conviction. She thanked Leah for it now, for making her see what she had failed at before. It wasn't always smooth sailing with Leah, but she knew part of it was due to the type of women she and Sue were. She didn't think she was a weak person, but she'd gotten tougher over the years. And she'd taught Leah patience and gentleness as well. It was a two-way street.

"So, you feel like going to a party tonight?" Leah asked, bringing her back to the present. "Embry said Sam was throwing it since he has his own place. It should be fun."

Bella was up for it, so that night she dressed in a silver skirt paired with a low-cut black tank top. She balked a little, but then figured looking sexy wouldn't hurt. The party was in full swing when they got there. Bella accepted the drink, figuring one beer wouldn't hurt. She sipped slowly, dancing with her friends, and had something to eat. She was standing with Leah, Kim, Angela, and Jessica later with her second full beer when she caught sight of Jake.

He, Paul, and Jared had crashed the party.

Sam was speaking in low tones to Embry and Quil, looking pissed, when Jake caught her eye. He gave her a slight smile, but he looked a little remote. She realized he'd been drinking when she caught sight of his bloodshot eyes. Swallowing with difficulty, she moved away from the girls, but Leah caught her arm.

"Leah, it's okay," Bella reassured her. "You know, I'm tired of reminding you that I can handle myself."

Leah laughed a little, though the worry was still in her eyes when she released Bella's arm. Bella made her way over to Jake, feeling a sense of unease when he met her eyes. "Bella," he said, slurring just a little bit.

"Jacob, what are you doing?" she asked quietly.

He led her away from the party-goers and slipped outside when no one was looking. Bella bit her lip, looking up at him, and said while backing away, "Jacob, you're drunk. You shouldn't be here."

"Paul and Jared are on the prowl," he said, not even hearing her. "I wanted to see you."

He wasn't rough, she didn't feel in danger, but she was nervous anyway. "Why?"

"I like the way you smell. The way you taste," he said absently.

When he kissed her, she could taste beer on his breath. It wasn't entirely unpleasant and she relaxed as he held her lightly. The kiss grew in intensity, though, and he backed her up against the bricks of Sam's house. His hands dropped to her hips, his mouth hard, wet, and eager. Bella opened for him, and felt him lift her, but it was moving too fast.

When his hands grazed her breasts, Bella said, "Jacob, put me down."

Surprisingly, he did right away. He blinked slowly at her and she said, "Don't push this, Jacob. I'm not like the other women you hit on. I'm not looking for a good time nor am I desperate."

That was a mean assumption, she knew, but she needed Jake to understand. He nodded at her, and said abruptly, "I know, but maybe you can make me better."

He wanted to stop? This shocked her into silence.

Finally, she whispered, "I can't save you from yourself, Jacob. If you want to stop, you need to want to and you need to make it happen yourself."

It was a lesson she'd learned the hard way. It was so brief, she wasn't even sure she saw it, but it looked like she'd hurt him. He backed away, but she reached out and caught his wrist. "Don't misunderstand me, Jacob. You have to do this for yourself, but I'll support you if you need it."

The line that creased his forehead eased. He looked more sober now. "I get it." His eyes softened and he kissed her again, his tongue skimming over her lips. Her body heated and she shivered.

"Isabella Swan," a voice thundered nearby. She froze at the sound of Charlie's voice. His face was dark, mouth pinched, and he was staring straight at Jacob. "Get the hell away from my daughter, Black."

Jake stiffened, and Bella felt her heart break. He looked resigned, as if he thought this was what would always happen to him. "Dad, wait…"

"Bella, get home right now," he said. Leah had come outside and rested a hand on her shoulder in support. The party was breaking up, the alcohol hidden though she was sure Charlie knew, and Jake was standing poker-faced next to her.


"Bella, what did I just say? I've arrested him at least twice and held him in a cell overnight. He's bad news."

"Listen to me!" she almost yelled even though she was shocked. She'd had no idea Charlie had arrested Jake before. She felt bad immediately for yelling, so she lowered her voice. "Dad, Jake didn't hurt me. He's…"

"It's okay, Bella," Jake said, interrupting her this time. "Chief Swan is doing what he does best. And since it involves you, I get it." His tone was gentle.

It hardened when he turned to Charlie. "I'm not hurting her, Chief. I don't force women into anything they don't want. They come to me. Your daughter's stronger than you give her credit for."

Bella was embarrassed now and felt a twinge of regret as Jake walked away, Paul and Jared behind him. He'd been snide, but courteous at the same time. At least he hadn't been downright disrespectful. Charlie was still fuming as they made their way home.

He didn't say a word when they got there. She was a good person, but she knew he'd be watching her closely from now on. "I'll be keeping an eye out for him," was all he said when she walked down the hall to her bedroom. Leah came in with her and stretched out on the bed next to her.

Bella cried, mostly out of embarrassment and feeling stupid, but Leah didn't say a word. She just rubbed her back until she was done. "I'm not blinded by love, Lee," Bella whispered. "I know what he is. He does seem to want to change, but I told him he has to do it for himself."

Leah laughed softly. "You're really a smart person, Bella. And you're nearly as tough as me. If he really is trying, then I hope he can for his own sake. Otherwise he'll end up in jail or Charlie will castrate him."

She gave Bella a pat on the head and left.

A few days later, Bella was at the coffee shop, filling a customer's cup when Jake came in. He caught her eye and sat in a corner booth. She went over to him and raised an eyebrow. "What can I get you?"

He eyed her a bit lasciviously, making her blush, but said, "A coffee and a chocolate chip muffin."

She shook her head and went to get his order. When she placed it on the table, he thanked her. When he was about to leave, he handed her a little box. "This made me think of you."

Shocked, Bella stared at him. "What? Jake…"

He shook his head, telling her to open it, so she did. It was a tiny silver bracelet with a carved, wooden canoe dangling from it. Surprised, Bella stared at it. He fastened it to her wrist.

"Jake, why…"

He shrugged. She stared at it and bit her lip. "Did you… you didn't…"

She spoke without thinking, and even though she didn't say it, they both knew what she meant to say. Jake's eyes shuttered, and his lips pressed together. "I guess a leopard can't change its spots," he said.

He didn't wait for her to respond; he just left. A crushing sense of guilt crashed down on her because she knew. He didn't have to say it. It was near the end of her shift, so she ripped her apron off and hurried outside. "Jake, wait…" she called out, but he'd already gotten into his car. He was gone.

Bella went home and felt horrible. She needed to talk to Jake. Outside, the summer warmth had faded to a cool night, and she shivered. Jake's tiny apartment had one single light on. She swallowed nervously and knocked. It took a few minutes, but when he opened the door, he just stared blankly at her.

The guilt was overwhelming. "Jake, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking… please…"

"It was a gift I'd given to my mother," he said quietly.

And Bella began to cry. Without thinking, she reached up on her tip-toes to loop her arms around his neck and buried her face in his chest. "I'm s-so sorry," she whispered, hiccupping. "Jake, it was such a stupid thing to say, I didn't mean…"

He interrupted her. His hand hesitantly stroked her hair. "It hurt, Bella, but really. Don't cry. It's who I am, what I do, and I can understand why you assumed that, even if it was just for a moment."

It still made her unbearably sad, so she whispered how sorry she was. The bracelet was still on her wrist and she murmured, "It really is beautiful. And if you still want me to have it…"

"Of course," he said.

"Thank you," she replied and reached up to kiss him.

It didn't take long before they were stretched out on his bed. She didn't know how they went from talking to this. It probably wasn't very smart. His mouth pressed kisses to her lips, her throat, and the top of her chest at the v-neck of her work t-shirt. Bella squirmed, heat racing through her body, and kissed him back. Her hands found his bare back, stroking, and she whimpered when his hands skimmed her sides up to her breasts.

His hips settled between her thighs, and Bella ached; she wanted him so much. He tugged her shirt off, his mouth coasting over her breasts, and she gasped. She unhooked her own bra and he squeezed, stroked, and kissed her. Her eyes were shut tight in pleasure and she moaned when his hand slid down her pants. As soon as his fingers touched her, Bella felt the throb.

She did the same and found him stiff and ready. Her fingers curled around him, stroking, tugging gently, and she tried to regain her sanity as he stroked all the right spots between her thighs. Bella cried out as she came around his fingers and his hips jerked as he did the same in her grip.

He looked down at his damp jeans and sighed. "Well, wouldn't be the first time." Bella tried to muffle a laugh.

He smirked slightly and took them off without hesitation. Holy crap. He was quite, uh, impressive and his backside as he turned to go into the bathroom was stellar. She wasn't sure if they were continuing, but he was dressed when he came out. "Go home," he said softly. "As much as I want you here, you aren't ready for the rest just yet."

"I've had sex before," Bella said warily.

He chuckled, surprising both of them with the husky laugh. It had been so long since she heard it. "Good to know. But you don't trust me fully yet."

It was unfortunate, but true. This was happening a little too quickly. He kissed her when she nodded. "Not yet, but soon."

So, she went home, satiated, but still sort of frustrated.

He eased his way into her life, working to improve himself in increments. They talked more. In a shop in Port Angeles, she saw a look in his eye that made her worry. Was he going to steal? He wasn't aware she was in the next aisle, watching. His fingers brushed over an item, but he pulled his hand back. The drinking and smoking were still occurring, but he stopped doing it quite so much. She knew how hard he was trying, and she refrained from pushing.

One night they went out on a real date, nestled in a corner booth of an Italian restaurant in Portland. Her leg was trapped between his when a woman walking by caught sight of him and stopped.

"Jake! Wow, it's really you. How are you?" Bella eyed the leggy blonde. She was attractive, but had an edge to her.

Jake was looking at her blankly. "Uh, hey," he replied.

She tittered. "You remember me! We had that little romp on the playground around the corner the one night."

Bella swallowed with some difficulty, focusing on her manicotti instead. Suddenly it didn't taste as good as it had before. Jake didn't flush, but he must've remembered if his facial expression was any indication.

"We should try it again sometime," she said in a low voice. Okay, she was desperate, too.

"Yeah, don't hold your breath," he said dryly. "I'm with someone tonight, so I think this conversation needs to end."

She looked irritated, but tittered again. Bella scowled slightly. She sounded like a deranged bird. After she strode away, Bella saw a man following her outside, casting a dark look toward Jake. It made her uncomfortable, but she forgot about it when Jake apologized. Bella didn't know what to say at first but couldn't help asking, "Have you… slept with anyone since…?"

He sighed. "No, not since that night you saw me leaving that girl's house." She nodded. It was part of his past, and she knew that going into their relationship.

When dinner was over, she held Jake's hand as he headed down the sidewalk to his car. From the alley, a man stepped out, dark-haired, tall, and angry. It was the man from the restaurant. "So, you're the scum that screwed my girlfriend."

Jake stared at him, not showing any ounce of fear at all. "I am?"

The man moved in closer, eyes narrowed, and hissed, "You piece of shit. You're going to pay for that. Maybe your new slut will think again."

Bella gave a small yelp as the man punched Jake in the face. It was like a switch had been flipped. Jake's face darkened, eyes hard as flint, and his mouth formed a sneer. His hand bunched into a fist and he never even looked at Bella as he smashed a fist into the man's jaw.

Bella's heart gave a start, and she backed up. He looked like a different person. She knew she wouldn't get through to him; he had to stop this himself. As much as she wanted to cry out for help, yell for Jake that it wasn't worth it, all she did was move away. The man was getting up when Jake turned his head slightly toward her. She didn't say a word, but they locked eyes.

It must've taken sheer willpower to stop, but he slammed the man's fist away before it connected with him again. He pinned the guy's arms behind his back, pushing him against the wall, and said coldly, "I'm not going to do this. It's your lucky day."

People had been alerted and had started moving closer, but Jake took her hand and hustled her along. She could see the cop who had been nearby backing off since it ended before it really got started. Bella didn't know what to say and Jake was completely silent. The car ride home was uncomfortable. When he dropped her off, he turned to her.

She could see the sadness and how it dissipated as his expression went blank. "I'm sorry about tonight. You deserve better."

Bella took his chin in her hand and turned his head toward her. "Don't be. You aren't perfect, Jacob. You're still a mess, but you're trying. That means more to me than anything else. And thank you for standing up for me."

She kissed him, tugging his ponytail lightly before getting out of the car. She could see the white of his teeth as he smiled. It was worth it.

Bella finally told Charlie she was trying something with Jacob. After a lot of yelling and Sue joining in on the discussion, Bella finally managed to get him to calm down. "Dad, he's trying. He wants to change. You know I'm not stupid. Give him a chance, okay?"

It wasn't easy, but he finally agreed. Jake came over to see the family a couple nights later and endured the cold silence from Charlie during dinner which eventually turned to a battering round of questions about drinking, stealing, and everything else he did wrong.

"Is Bella just some new fling to you?" It was Charlie's last question and it was a doozy; one that embarrassed her. Jake stood up, offended.

"No, she's not. Thank you for dinner, but I need to go. Don't worry, Chief Swan, I won't ruin your daughter."

Leah and Seth followed Bella as she hurried after Jake. "Jake, wait. It was a stupid thing to say, but he's concerned. Just give him time. He's getting there," she assured him.

"Black," Leah said, coming up behind her. "I'll still kill you if you hurt her, but I'm willing to try. Charlie will, too." She wasn't smiling, but it was what Bella needed to hear. Seth stepped up, echoing the sentiment.

Bella smiled, ruffling her brother's hair, and he shoved her hand away. He was grinning, though.

The next night, she slid out of her room quietly when everyone was asleep. She made her way to Jake's apartment and saw the single light glowing in the window. When he opened the door, she smiled. His hair was messy, he had a sleep crease on his cheek, and she said, "Sorry. Did I wake you?"

He smiled slowly. "It doesn't matter. I'm glad you did."

Bella stared at him, his dark eyes examining her, and she felt that stirring in her stomach. She wanted him. Now. She took his hand, leading him to the bedroom, and he undressed her. "Do you… do you get… tested?" she asked hesitantly.

He nodded, kissing her. "I do. I haven't been with anyone for awhile, not since that night," he said, reverting to her nickname she had as a kid. "I've been to the doctor since, and I'm clean."

She locked her arms around his neck, pulling his beautiful naked body down against hers. Her back arched as his hands touched her everywhere, growing impatient quickly. Mouths collided and she relished in the feel of his tongue, the scrape of hairy legs against hers, and his muscled chest sliding down her body as he drifted between her thighs.

Bella's body tightened and she came quickly. When her legs locked around his waist, she smoothed his hair back. He kissed her breasts over and over, sheathed himself, pinned her arms over her head, and he took her quickly. Jake was a mix of fast, hard, slow, and gentle. He drove her up and over quickly, and she moved sinuously, pulling him with her.

She fell asleep snuggled against him.

When Bella woke a little later, Jake's weight was still pinning her down. She closed her eyes and remembered the flex of his backside, his silky hair tickling her face, and the soft skin of his lower back as she'd held on to him for the ride. He lifted his head, eyeing her sleepily.

"I was thinking earlier," he said in a husky voice. "I guess I wanted this all on my own. You helped me, just like you said you would, but I've begun to realize that my life is worth saving."

Hearing that, knowing he wanted this and not just for her, made this so right. She kissed him, pulling him close. He exhaled softly, tickling the fine hairs at her ear. "I'll keep trying. If I can make amends with others, I will. Paul and Jared will have to go."

"I know Quil and Embry really well," she said, reading between the lines. "It'll take work, but I really think they'll both be open enough to listen. Your dad, too."

He kissed her again, resting his head on her chest, and Bella felt everything settle into place; right where it belonged.

AN: I hope you enjoyed this! This was my contribution to the Fandom4Autism. If you're interested in learning more about it, want to get involved or contribute to Autism Speaks, here's the link: .org