A Different Path
How would the story have progressed if Bella, instead of Jacob, had answered the phone on the day of Harry's funeral?
1. Chapter 1
Rating 4.5/5 Word Count 2576 Review this Chapter
There was a soft intake of breath, and then nothing. No click. No breathing.
“Hello?” she said again, impatient. She glanced back at Jacob. The distraction had interrupted her decision-making process. She was surprised to find that rather than grateful, she felt impatient. No one responded.
Jacob held out his hand for the phone, and she shrugged, handing it to him. He hung it up without putting it to his ear, without taking his eyes from her.
“Where were we?” he asked quietly, as if he could sense her continued indecision.
Bella took a deep breath. “I was trying to decide if I was going to let you kiss me or not,” she replied honestly. Jake grinned.
“And have you come to any decision on that?” he asked teasingly. But Bella’s mood was serious.
“Why don’t we sit down, Jake?” she asked quietly, lowering her eyes. She didn’t see him frown for a moment as he slid into the nearest chair. By the time she looked up again, his face was carefully blank. She looked away from the hated expression.
“There are some things you should know before...before,” she said, not sure how to end her statement. She grimaced, recalling her conversation with Quil. Before was an important word. Jacob seemed to be waiting for her to explain. She turned her chair slightly to face him, and put her hands on the table, fisted in frustration. It seemed easier to continue if she kept her eyes on her hands.
“Jake, I –“ she paused for a minute, not sure how to explain. She’d known since the cliff diving incident that if she wanted to keep him with her, she was going to have to tell him everything. She took a deep breath and looked up. Jacob was looking toward the stairs. He turned his eyes back to her at once, a troubled expression clouding his features for only a second.
“Bella, nothing you can tell me is going to change how I feel,” he said, enclosing her hands in his own. She shook her head before he’d finished speaking.
“Maybe not, but you deserve to know everything before you decide that this is what you want.”
Jacob unclenched her fists easily and entwined their fingers. “This is what I want,” he insisted, his voice reverting to the husky tone it had before the phone call had interrupted.
“You deserve better,” Bella whispered, still staring at their hands. The warmth there made the rest of her feel cold, suddenly. She shivered. “Listen, Jake,” she said quickly, her voice stronger. “I want to explain to you about the motorcycles and the cliff diving, okay. I had – an ulterior motive.”
She waited for a few seconds to see if he’d say anything, but got no response. When she looked up, he was looking away from her again toward the stairs. She sighed, thinking this was going to be much more difficult to say than she’d imagined. And she’d imagined it would be plenty difficult.
“Let me start with the nightmares,” she said finally. “Or have you already heard?”
“Charlie’s mentioned it to Billy once or twice,” Jacob replied, shrugging and turning his eyes back to her. He looked concerned.
“It’s basically the same dream every night. I’m in the forest searching desperately. Sometimes Sam is there, but he doesn’t say anything. Sometimes it’s a field instead of a forest. But the sequence is always the same. I look and look until I realize that I can’t remember what I’m looking for.” She exhaled loudly. “That’s when I wake up, screaming.”
Jake looked confused. Bella shook her head again. “The dream is about him. It’s a nightmare because I’m forgetting. Forgetting the sound of his voice and –“ but she didn’t continue. This was going to hurt Jake enough. He didn’t need to hear about the other things she was afraid to lose; the scent of Edward’s skin, the feel of his cold arms around her, his kiss.
She’d lowered her eyes again. She forced herself to look back up at Jacob to find that his face was carefully blank again. She sighed. “I discovered, the day before I first brought you the bikes, that when I felt like I was in danger, or doing something reckless, that I had a very specific -” she paused, looking for any word that wouldn’t make her sound crazy. Finding nothing, she continued, “- delusion. I could hear his voice in my head, telling me... well, yelling at me, mostly. Like he was angry that I’d put myself in danger. Like he cared.” On the last word, her voice broke, and it wasn’t until then that she noticed the tears streaming down her cheeks. Jacob tightened his fingers around hers.
“For some reason, hearing his voice in my head didn’t hurt as much as just trying to remember it.” She felt the open wound in her chest pulse painfully, and freed one of her hands to wrap around her torso protectively. Jacob watched, and his hands shook a little, but his face remained calm. He didn’t respond. “So, when I saw the bikes that morning, I couldn’t resist. I wanted to break my last promise to him. I wanted to be reckless and foolish. It was the first thing I’d allowed myself to want in months.
“I didn’t know what I’d do with them, at first, but then I remembered you and your Rabbit.” She paused again to breathe and then continued on, hurrying. “It felt so strange, when I got to your house. I almost didn’t know what was wrong with me. My face felt funny. Then I realized I was smiling – without forcing myself to do it, without actively considering the muscles I needed to use to manage it. And then, it was so easy to talk to you. I didn’t have to keep reminding myself to pay attention, like with everyone else. I didn’t have to try to be interested. It was ...”
She fell silent, and risked a glance at him again. Finally, his face had an expression she could recognize as his. He looked hopeful. She unwrapped her arm from where it’d been holding her together and put her hand back on the table. He quickly entwined their fingers again.
“Bella,” he whispered urgently, when their eyes met. But she shook her head.
“The only time I don’t feel like I’m falling apart is when we’re together. But even that, well, I have to leave you sometime. As soon as I get back in the truck to come home –“ She stopped again, casting about for the right way to word things, but not finding it. She continued anyway.
“I kept seeking out the delusions. Trying to find ways to hear his voice so that, for a few minutes at least, I could remember without pain. I’d pay for it later, of course. The nightmares would be worse, but I never gave up.
“The cliff diving was stupid. I was lonely, and worried about you, and it had been several days since I’d heard his voice. Honestly, I was a mess – curled up in the sand at First Beach, trying to hold myself together. I didn’t think about the water, just the fall. I didn’t think about Charlie or Renee or you.” She could hear the slightly hysterical note in her own voice, but couldn’t stop talking, now that she’d really got started.
“I didn’t think about anything except hearing him. And I was so upset with you when you pulled me out of the water, because when I realized I was going to die, I saw him.” There were tears on her face again, and she could feel Jacob’s hands shaking around her own. This time, he reached up to wipe her tears away, anger twisting his mouth into a frown. His warm, gentle hand on her cheek pulled a sob from her throat, and he quickly pulled her up from her chair and folded his arms around her protectively. His fingers ran gently through her hair as she cried, quieting gradually.
When her breathing evened out, she pulled away, her eyes on the floor. “I wanted you to know all that before you decided anything. But, I know that if we – if we’re going to be together, I can’t do that anymore. I can’t chase after these delusions for comfort.” The prospect of never hearing his voice again was terrifying, and instantly she was gasping for air again. Jacob pulled her back to his chest, still looking angry, and glanced over her head toward the stairs before lowering his lips to her hair.
She struggled to speak through her tears. “So you’ve got to understand, Jake - you deserve so much better. You deserve someone who can love you completely – just you! But I’m so selfish, and I need you, and –“ she wasn’t able to continue through her sobs, and he crushed her to him, forgetting his strength for a moment in a wave of protectiveness.
“Can’t – breathe – Jake!” she gasped, and he let her go at once, keeping her within the circle of his arms. To his surprise she laughed a little, wetly. “Some things never change,” she commented in response to his stunned expression.
He smiled, then. “No, some things never do,” he agreed, intensity evident in his voice and his eyes. “Bella, none of this could make me love you any less. None of this changes anything. I want to be here for you. I want to help. I can’t stand seeing you hurting.”
He raised his hands and wiped away her tears with his thumbs, holding her face gently. “I’ve decided. Have you?” he whispered. He lowered his lips to hers, not waiting for a response.
Bella stood still in shock for a moment, the heat of his lips on hers felt alien. But then he began to kiss her in earnest, without the careful inhibitions she’d grown used to with Edward, and she couldn’t help kissing him back. He let his hands fall from her face to encircle her waist. Moments passed that would have been silent, but for the rushing sound in her ears. She ran her hands up his arms until she could cling to his shoulders, and felt his arms tighten around her. When they broke apart, they looked at each other for a long moment before Jacob released her and stepped back, glancing toward the stairs again.
“When she leaves, you know where to find me,” he said, a smile breaking across his face that was like sunrise on a cloudless day. Her smile. Bella could only nod, surprised by the amount of emotion she’d felt as he kissed her. She hadn’t been expecting to like it quite so much. Then she felt herself smile in return. “See you soon.” She hardly had time to blink before he was gone out the door. She sat back down abruptly, struggling to figure out what it all meant. She felt both relief that Jacob had a reason to stay with her now, that he wouldn’t desert her over what she’d told him, and confusion.
The confusion was strongest at first. She would have to think long and hard about how she felt about Jacob. The kiss they had shared had brought it to her attention that her feelings for him were more than just a selfish need for his company to ease her pain. With her hands folded in her lap, she laid her face against the table. The surface was cool against her flushed cheek, and she only stayed there a moment before the coolness upset her. She jumped to her feet, intending to go and find Alice.
Edward had frozen in shock when Bella answered the phone. He realized instantly that he’d trusted Rosalie more than he’d thought he did. He also realized that he couldn’t make himself hang up the phone. She sounded ... breathless. He waited, but she said, “Hello,” only twice, and then hung up.
Pain burned through his chest as if he’d physically been damaged by the sound of her voice. He hung his head, finally admitting defeat. How could he continue this way, without her? He couldn’t. And yet, how could he put her in danger again by returning? He couldn’t do that either.
He wondered what Bella thought of Alice suddenly showing up in Forks. Had they seen one another yet? Impatiently, he dialed Alice’s number. She answered before it rang.
“She’s alive, don’t do anything stupid,” Alice said at once, whispering, before he’d even had time to greet her. She sounded angry, and he wasn’t surprised, but he chuckled softly.
“I know. I just called and she picked up. What happened?” He listened impatiently to her quick, and to human ears, silent explanation of Bella’s cliff diving adventure. She editorialized rather more than he’d have liked, but he let it pass. When she paused, however, his sharp ears were able to hear the conversation going on in the kitchen beneath her, even through her phone. Alice seemed aware of this, and said nothing further. He heard her shift, and assumed she was taking the phone closer to Bella. He was correct.
The conversation shouldn’t have shocked him. It’s what he’d intended, after all – for Bella to move on. To forget him. He just hadn’t factored in how much that would hurt. When the sounds of their whispers ceased, he heard Alice move again, retreating from the top of the stairs. He couldn’t think of anything more to say to her. He was about to hang up when she spoke again, in a normal voice.
“There’s more you should know,” she stated, and he could tell she was trying to modulate her voice into something that didn’t sound judgmental. She was failing. “The boy, Jacob Black, is a werewolf. He and his pack have been protecting Bella ever since Laurent and Victoria returned for her. Laurent is dead, but they’re not having much luck catching Victoria.”
Finally, Edward found his voice. “I’ll be there in two days.” He snapped the phone shut so violently that it crumbled to pieces between his fingers. And then he went to find out whether it was day or night, and begin arranging his journey home.
Bella was surprised by Alice’s plans for immediate departure, and struggled not to let the hurt show in her face. She didn’t let herself contemplate the idea that Alice was angry with her over Jacob. Even if she HAD heard their conversation, it shouldn’t make any difference. Alice would want Bella to find whatever happiness was still possible. And yet, she couldn’t shake the impression that Alice WAS angry as she headed for the door with her bag.
“I’m really glad you came to see me, Alice,” Bella said warmly. And that was true. Having Alice in the house had been a welcome reassurance of her own sanity.
“I’m glad, too.” Alice kissed her cheek with a distracted smile. She waved before climbing into the black Mercedes. Instead of heading toward the highway, she sped off in the direction of the deserted white house. Bella just shook her head. Another insane spring break was nearly over. She wondered restlessly what sort of shape Charlie would be in when he got back from the funeral. With a sigh, she set about making something for dinner that could feed at least five people, just in case.
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- 19 Oct 07
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