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A Different Path

Summary:
How would the story have progressed if Bella, instead of Jacob, had answered the phone on the day of Harry's funeral?


Notes:


8. Chapter 8

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 1618   Review this Chapter

Bella went out of her way to help Angela with her graduation announcements after work the next day. Another soggy week passed in Forks. She made a point to speak to Edward before lunch each day, as she had when he’d first returned. Otherwise, their interaction was minimized to stolen glances that made Edward feel sad, and Bella feel guilty.

Evenings in La Push were better. She laughed with Embry and Quill, and talked earnestly with Emily. She sat through a council meeting, and heard first-hand the legends all her Quileute friends knew by heart from childhood. She sat, propped against Jake, his hand stroking her hair, and his eyes on her as the elders spoke.

The following weekend, though, Bella woke abruptly, blinking at the ceiling for a minute. She’d forgotten something important. She went to the closet and looked at the dress, still hidden in plastic, hanging innocently beside her only skirt. Then she pursed her lips and got dressed, heading back to La Push.

When she arrived, Jacob was still asleep. Billy, smiling for all he was worth, waved her towards his room anyway, and she went in and knelt beside his bed. She shook him by his bare shoulder, but got no response. “Jacob, wake up,” she whispered. “I’ve got to ask you something.”

“Mmm?” he mumbled, an eye cracking open. Then he reached out and pulled her into the bed with him.

“Jake!” she protested weakly. He recognized the tone well, though, and just held her closer. “Billy’s going to stick his head around the door any second.”

“Wheelchair barely fits into the hall,” Jake commented dryly, his eyes already closed again. Bella shook her head, but smiled. “Anyway, it doesn’t really bother you, does it?”

“I guess not,” Bella answered, wondering if it mattered. She was already too warm, but she couldn’t decide if that was because of his body heat, or his state of undress. He was in his usual cut-off shorts and nothing else. Undoubtedly he’d been patrolling around her house again in the night. She let herself relax into his embrace, after a moment of indecision.

“What’d you want to ask?” Jake said, burying his face in her hair.

“I meant to say something earlier, but I forgot. Tonight’s the prom,” she said, grimacing, though he couldn’t see it. “Do you want to go?”

Jake’s response was a bone crunching hug, but he let her go before she could protest, then held her away from him to look at her. “Really?” She noticed his eyes were wide open, and he didn’t look sleepy at all.

“Really.”

“You hate to dance,” he pointed out, wavering.

“I’ve bought the dress. And this is for you.” Bella held up a stub from the tux rental place she’d stopped at on the way.

“Aw, you didn’t have to do that,” Jake said, his brow furrowing.

“Well, I’m inviting you, right? I couldn’t exactly get you a corsage,” She teased, sitting up.

“I’d have worn it,” Jacob replied, laughing, and pulling her back to him. “Thanks,” he whispered, suddenly serious again.

He kissed her eagerly before she could reply, his lips seeming to burn on hers. She welcomed it. There was something to be said for not having to rein in her desires when it came to Jacob. She let her hands play across his bare chest, where they’d been trapped. When she looked up to break the kiss and allow them both to breathe, he pulled away only slightly, turning his attention instead to her neck, but giving her the opportunity to wrap her arms around his back.

Neither was conscious of exactly when they’d rolled, but Bella looked up at him, her eyes wide, as he lowered his head to catch her lips again, a new sense of urgency seemed to erupt in each of their chests. It wasn’t a feeling Bella was familiar with, but it seemed to sear everything inside her. She wondered briefly if it could have sealed the gaping hole that seemed to return whenever Jacob was out of her sight, but couldn’t hold on to the thought. She ran her fingers through his hair, as he held himself over her, her breath coming shallowly.

Jacob moaned quietly at the feeling of her hands in his hair, pulling his face to hers, but not quietly enough. Bella released him, and he ducked his head, embarrassed, but smiling.

“We aren’t ready for this,” Bella whispered, her tone almost apologetic. Jake shook his head, agreeing, but clearly sorry it was the case. He kissed her again, and moved to the side, propped up on his elbow, and still breathing heavily.

“Better give me a minute,” he replied. Bella smiled, then sat up and kissed him again quickly before exiting the room. She stood for a minute with her back to the door, letting her breathing slow, with a slight smile on her face. After a few moments, she felt Billy’s eyes on her, and opened her own to look over at him, a horrifying thought occurring to her. She stepped back into the kitchen to stand across the table from where he was sitting. His chair had been turned toward Jacob’s room, and she had a suspicion it had been that way for quite some time.

“Billy,” she began cautiously, “you’ve never been a werewolf, right, but you’ve got the blood. How’s your hearing?” she asked, her worry turning quickly to mortification as a grin broke across the old man’s face. He didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to. Bella was already hiding her face in her hands and turning away.

“Bella,” he called, stopping her before she reached to door. She raised her red face and looked at him warily. He wheeled his chair toward her. “You’re family. It pleases me to see you and Jacob so happy,” he said, his eyes serious.

“Thanks,” she whispered, surprised. It occurred to her again that Billy really must be a lot easier to live with than Charlie. At the thought, her eyes widened worriedly again.

But Billy was holding up a hand to reassure her. “It isn’t as if I would mention this to your father,” he said, humor filling his eyes again. Then they both laughed.

“Thanks,” she said again. “I’ll just – wait outside,” she added, before bolting for the door, glad it wasn’t raining for once.

She didn’t have to wait long before Jacob joined her, smiling the smile she liked best. “So,” he said, trying to sound casual and failing, “what do you want to do today?”

Bella laughed. “You should go straight to the tux place. It might take them a while to find something that fits you.” She tilted her head to look up at him, her smile reflecting his. “And I should go home and decide what to do with my hair.”

Jacob looked disappointed, but nodded. They walked out to her truck. “Jake – “ Bella began as she opened the door. But he shook his head, an intense look in his eyes, and she didn’t continue.

“I’ll see you tonight. I’ll come by at seven so Charlie can take some pictures, alright?” He kissed her goodbye, the same sweet kiss she remembered their first to have been, but with a hint of something more that had never been there before.

“Seven,” she confirmed breathlessly. He only nodded again, and went to stand in the doorway, watching, as she drove away.


Seven o’clock had seemed so far away as Bella drove home, her mind filled more with Jacob’s kisses than with any useful hair strategy. Now, however, it seemed to be speeding toward her with an inevitability that she didn’t appreciate. Prom! What had she been thinking? But she knew the answer to that. She’d been thinking Jacob would enjoy it. She felt guilty for the stress she must be causing him, and the rest of the pack as well, really. They’d been staying up all hours of the night, especially Jake, watching over her. Keeping her safe. She’d wanted to give him one evening to relax and just have fun. She decided it would be worth it, even if she DID trip over her feet all evening. With any luck, he’d be mostly content to find a table, sip drinks and talk.

When he arrived, she caught her breath, and hurriedly put her feet into the shoes she’d let Alice talk her into buying. She took an unsteady step toward the door, frowned down at her feet, and then headed resolutely for the stairs. At the last minute, though, she stopped, deciding to carry her shoes until she’d reached the bottom. It was a good decision.

Halfway down, she caught sight of Jacob, and inhaled sharply, then grinned. She supposed that even in a tux, he would look intimidating to her classmates. But he really was beautiful, in his way. His hair, which she’d noticed he’d been growing out again, looked soft and shiny. Not long enough for his one-time ponytail, but enough to frame his face.

He was already smiling up at her, having noticed the shoes dangling from her fingers. She put them on before Charlie appeared with her camera. Her smile fell away when she saw it. She hadn’t laid eyes on the thing since before Edward had left. In just a fraction of a second, she realized that nothing had healed. She bit her lip. But then Jacob took her hand and, ignoring Charlie entirely, put his other to her cheek, forcing her eyes to meet his. She smiled, setting her jaw, and nodded. Before they could turn back, Charlie snapped that picture.

Bella’s face heated with embarrassment, but she laughed along with them, and let Charlie use up a whole roll of film without complaint. She hadn’t been the one to put in the new roll, after all.