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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?


12. Chapter 12

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 1960   Review this Chapter

fWatching Seth and Edward fight was gruesome, but Bella couldn’t force herself to think of it, too overcome with concern for their safety. When Edward finally turned back toward her, the fire sending up thick billows of smoke behind him, she was standing exactly where he’d left her, wide eyed.

She watched him approach, holding up his hands and reassuring her that he wasn’t going to hurt her.

“Why do you keep saying that?” she demanded finally, when he was close enough to touch. She didn’t wait for his answer before continuing. “Are you alright? Did she hurt you?” She reached out toward him, then thought better of it and let her arm fall back to her side, biting her lip.

Edward stepped closer, still incredulous that she wasn’t frightened of him after what she’d just seen. “No. I’m fine.”

Bella shuddered with relief and took in a ragged breath. “And Seth?”

“Better than fine. Very pleased with himself,” Edward said, allowing himself a smile in Seth’s direction. He heard the hitch in Bella’s breathing and tried to recall if he’d smiled at her at all since his return. He hadn’t had much cause, he realized. His brow furrowed at the thought. “We should meet up with the others in the clearing,” he said after a moment.

“You’re sure you’re alright?” Bella whispered, forcing her eyes from his face to inspect the rest of him.

“I’m fine.” He meant to keep his voice steady – to sound detached. But it came out more relieved than anything.

Bella’s tears spilled over then, and she threw her arms around his neck, shaking and gasping for air. “Oh, Edward!” He brought his arms around her slowly, surprised by her reaction, and cautiously pleased. They stood that way for several moments as the wind blew her hair around them both. Edward stayed very still, reveling in the contact, and forcing his breathing to remain even. Finally, he bent his head and pressed his lips to her temple.

Bella didn’t pull away from him until she sensed Seth approaching. Then she swallowed hard and stepped back, her ankles protesting – she’d been standing up on her toes. Edward turned to Seth. “Go ahead. We’re right behind you,” he said, answering a thought. Seth took off into the trees in the direction of the clearing.

They were halfway there when it happened. Edward stopped moving abruptly, and before Bella could ask, he fell to his knees. She stumbled backwards and fell as howling erupted from the trees ahead. “What is it? Are you alright?” she asked, horrified. Edward was gripping his own head, his eyes squeezed shut. She scrambled back toward him on her knees. “What is it?”

“The wolves didn’t count their half,” he whispered. “One was hiding in the trees. Leah caught the scent and tried to handle it herself. He pushed her out of the way.” Then his voice changed. “No, we’re alright. Sam, help him –“ Bella recognized the pack plural again.

“Is Leah okay? Edward?” Finally his eyes opened, but his face didn’t clear.

“Leah’s fine. Jacob got her out of the way,” he said carefully.

Bella’s lip was trembling before he’d finished speaking. “And Jake?” she whispered.

“He’s going to be alright. Carlisle’s looking at him now.” He left off, but she kept staring at him. “The newborn got her arms around him. He’s – “ he paused again, his eyes focusing forward, as if he was lifting the information real-time from Carlisle’s head. Bella guessed that’s probably exactly what he was doing. “Most of his right side was crushed. A lot of broken bones. But Carlisle thinks he’s going to be good as new in a few days. We should hurry. He might need help,” Edward finished. Bella nodded dazedly.

Edward looked her over and decided he’d better carry her, rather than relying on her to hold on. Bella ran to Jacob’s side as soon as Edward put her down, entirely missing the pain that crossed his face as she turned away.

Carlisle was kneeling on Jacob’s right side where he was stretched out in the grass, and Bella threw herself down on his left, taking his hand right away. He didn’t turn his head toward her, but his eyes found her face.

“ ‘S alright, Bella,” he whispered, trying to smile but only managing a grimace. Bella shook her head and squeezed his hand tightly in both of hers, not bothering to wipe at her tears.

Carlisle was examining Jacob with an expression of amazement. “These are already knitting back together, and not at the right angle. Edward?” he asked, looking up. He was still standing several feet away, but he walked towards them carefully, conscious of several things going on in the clearing that Bella didn’t seem to have noticed. From the corner of his eye, he saw the rest of the pack, clustered around Leah, who was sobbing – horrified that her lack of forethought had caused someone else to be injured.

“Sam?” Carlisle asked, after exchanging a meaningful glance with Edward. He stood and turned Sam away from Jacob before speaking. “He’s healing too fast. Some of his bones are already knitting at odd angles.”

“What’s that mean, exactly?” Sam asked, his voice careful.

“We’re going to have to re-break the bones to set them correctly. I’ve already sent Esme to the house for braces, but the sooner we get started, the easier this will be.”

Sam started shaking, but gritted his teeth and forced the anger down. “You want me to let you break his leg again?” he asked, his voice cold.

“You want me to leave him as he is? He’ll never walk right again,” Carlisle replied, matching his tone. Sam looked at Carlisle’s raised eyebrow, then glanced back towards where Jacob lay. He nodded abruptly, then strode back toward Leah and the others.

“Embry, Quil, stay with them. Don’t interfere. Do I need to make that official?” Sam asked quietly. Both boys shook their heads, but looked grim.

“Everyone else is going home. Everyone,” he added, as Leah raised her streaming eyes to protest. Her face fell back into her hands, but she let her little brother pull her to her feet.

Bella listened as Sam said a quick goodbye to Jacob. “We’ll tell Billy,” he finished. He reached out and ruffled Jacob’s hair, and was gone. Bella looked up as he left, and saw Quil and Embry standing with their arms crossed several feet away. She narrowed her eyes when she noticed them shooting furtive glances toward the huge fire. Following their gaze, she saw Jasper for the first time since the Cullens’ return. He looked angry, and beyond him, she caught her first glimpse of a newborn vampire. The girl was clearly demented. She looked away, unable to focus on what she was hearing, turning her attention back to Carlisle, Edward, and Jacob, who were now discussing how best to handle his treatment.

“We can try to move you to the house,” Carlisle was offering reluctantly, “I‘ve got enough morphine there to make you comfortable, but it would be a long trip, and there’s a good chance the pain would knock you unconscious anyway. Or we can do it here, now. You’ll pass out at the first break, and not have to remember the rest.”

Bella’s face took on a horrified expression again, and she felt herself gasping for air.

“Here, then,” Jake breathed, after a moment of thought. “The sooner we start the sooner it’s over, right?” Bella was shaking her head in denial, but the others were nodding.

We’ll start with your lower leg,” Carlisle explained as Edward seated himself beside Bella.

He looked at Bella’s hands, both tightly holding Jacob’s undamaged left hand. “You can’t hold her hand,” he said to Jacob.

“Why not?” Bella whispered, squeezing more strongly, still.

“Because he’ll pulverize your bones when Carlisle does it,” Edward said, trying to sound compassionate when all he really felt was worry.

Jake’s hand unclenched, and he raised it away from hers, wincing at the movement. A fraction of a second passed while Carlisle shifted, his hands feeling for the best place to begin, and then Edward took Jake’s hand himself, keeping his eyes away from Bella’s astonished expression.

“Thanks,” Jake whispered hoarsely. Edward nodded. Then Carlisle twisted his hands, and Jake screamed. Bella hid her face, sobbing. But the scream lasted only a few seconds before, as Carlisle had predicted, Jacob passed out.

Everyone seemed to let out a collective sigh at once. “Alright, then, Carlisle?” Edward asked after a moment, getting a weary nod in return. “Come on, then, Bella. You don’t have to watch,” he said, pulling her up by her elbow without waiting for her permission. He turned her away, though her eyes lingered on Jake. He looked frighteningly pale to her.

Edward was distracted by the conversation he could hear between Jasper and the newborn across the clearing, so he led her towards Quil and Embry, both of whom were staring stoically at Jacob and Carlisle. He excused himself and headed toward Jasper.

“Are you guys alright?” Bella asked them quietly.

They exchanged a glance. “We will be when Jake is,” Embry answered, smiling tightly. She nodded, feeling exactly the same way.

“How are you holding up?” Quil asked, eyeing her worriedly. She imagined she looked pretty pathetic. “That was some fight,” he continued, a gleam of admiration in his eye, as he shot a glance toward Edward. “Even Jake was impressed. Pissed off that he wasn’t there. But impressed.”

“I couldn’t see most of it,” Bella admitted. “They moved too fast. It was – a blur.” She turned her eyes back to the fire as well. “What are they saying?” she asked after a moment, registering the look of rage on Edward’s face as he hissed something at the girl on the ground. Jasper hovered protectively.

Embry and Quil exchanged a glance over her head and kept silent until she looked back at them, meeting each of their eyes. Finally, Embry cleared his throat. “Edward’s explaining that he’s going to rip her into pieces if she so much as looks at you again,” he said unwillingly.

“The blond one is trying to calm them both down.” Quil added. “She got your scent from that Riley Seth took care of,” he added, “and she doesn’t seem to be able to keep from –“

The girl let out a wild howl, throwing back her head, and Edward’s snarl rang across the clearing. She cowered, falling silent. “I think he’s made his point,” Embry said after a moment. A moment later, Bella cringed as a sharp cracking sound filled the air. Her focus turned immediately back to Jacob.

Emmett and Rosalie came into the clearing a few moments later, and Edward stared at them hard as they approached. “We’ll manage her,” Emmett said easily, grinning. His smile fell away, however, as Rosalie crouched beside the girl.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Bree,” the girl whispered, eyes wide.

“Bree, you see how it is, I hope,” Rosalie continued. “You’re going to have to control your thirst. We can help you, but you will have to restrain yourself to live the way we do.”

“How?!” Bree exclaimed loudly, catching Bella’s attention again. “How can you STAND it?” she whined, clearly in agony.

Rosalie glanced worriedly toward Edward, hearing the growl building in his chest before he’d released it. He still looked murderous.

“Come and hunt with Emmett and I,” she said quickly, turning back to the girl. “Let us show you. If you aren’t thirsty, it will be easier.”

The girl brightened up at the word hunt, obviously not yet understanding. “Okay!” She shot quickly to her feet. Bella felt rather than saw both Embry and Quil tensing beside her. But Bree just bounced in place. Emmett looked vaguely amused again as Rosalie straightened up in a more dignified manner. The three of them disappeared back into the trees.