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The Road Less Traveled

Summary:
Bella's worry over Jacob's disappearance drives Edward away. Years later, when she's had time to come to terms with herself and grow up, she and Jacob meet again. He, too, has matured. Can they build a life together? And what about Edward? TRLT Prequel to The Road Not Taken by Daintress of tm_switzerland .


Notes:


10. Chapter 10

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4542   Review this Chapter

Between contractions, Bella had time to be amused at Jacob’s attentiveness. She knew from discussions with her doctor that that probably meant they were going to the hospital too early, but she didn’t think she was going to be able to convince Jake to wait at home another few hours until the contractions were closer together, so she didn’t try. She didn’t scold him for the speed he maintained all the way to the hospital, either.

They were ushered into a birthing room in fairly short order, and nurses bustled in and out, asking questions, and performing various tests. Jacob took this all in stride, grinning during any moment when Bella wasn’t in pain. When she WAS, he watched her face anxiously and pushed the hair out of her eyes.

“Alright, Bells?” he asked each time. Bella gasped and nodded. Slowly, her contractions began coming faster.

When the doctor arrived, Bella was in the middle of a contraction.

“How far apart?” he asked at once.

“Five minutes,” Jacob responded, but he didn’t look at the doctor. He was looking passed him, to the man standing in the open doorway, and his voice was cold. Bella looked up.

Her doctor was looking between Jacob and Carlisle with a bit of worry. “Dr. Cullen has asked if he might assist.” He shot Carlisle an annoyed glance. “Naturally the choice will be yours,” he said, turning back to Bella.

“May I speak with Bella for just a moment, Dr. Martin?” Carlisle asked suddenly. Dr. Martin appeared undecided until Bella nodded at him. He excused himself quickly.

“Does your psychic know something we don’t?” Jacob demanded as soon as the door closed behind him. He was angry. He didn’t want the bloodsuckers to have any part of this. They’d mostly stayed out of his life for the last several years, and he’d preferred it that way. Other than Bella’s occasional shopping trips with Alice, he was far happier never to have to hear about the Cullens. But if something was going to go wrong with the pregnancy, and Alice had seen it, he couldn’t deny that he’d rather have Carlisle in the room…

“No, of course not. Bella is simply very important to me, and since Alice couldn’t see anything, I thought it prudent to be on hand. With your permission, of course.” Carlisle was nothing if not diplomatic.

Bella was staring worriedly at Jacob, and he looked back down at her and forced his face to relax. He nodded, and she smiled a little. Both of them knew why Carlisle was there. But the reason he’d given was valid as well. Jacob wasn’t willing to let Bella go without an exceptional doctor just to keep Edward from seeing these moments.

“It’s good of you to look after me so well,” Bella said finally, trying to smile at Carlisle. Then she was distracted by another contraction. Carlisle disappeared to retrieve her doctor. That had been rather less than five minutes.

Bella delivered their first son a few hours later. Dr. Martin placed him in her arms when he’d been wrapped, and he was screaming but she beamed down at him anyway. Jacob had one hand on her arms, helping to support the baby, and the other was pushing her sweat soaked hair away from her forehead. When she glanced up at him, she noticed he looked pale. Or, what passed for pale with him. But his eyes were on his son, and she quickly turned back to look at him also.

Later, when Bella had had a chance to clean up, and was lying much more comfortably, Carlisle came in with a birth certificate. Bella was prepared. They’d already agreed to name both boys after their fathers, and this time, it was Bella’s turn.

“Name?” Carlisle asked briskly, a slight smile on his face. He’d gone to some trouble to involve himself in this, and even though it wasn’t his name on the certificate as the doctor, he was pleased to be among the first to know. For quite some time, Bella had been like a daughter to him. He couldn’t help but continue to think of her that way.

“Charlie Masen Black,” Bella replied solemnly. “Charlie, not Charles.”

Carlisle’s hand hesitated just a fraction of a second before he wrote the name down, but he didn’t look over at her. If Jacob noticed, he said nothing.

“Your father will be thrilled. Have you told him?” Carlisle asked pleasantly.

“Not yet. We want it to be a surprise. When can I hold him again?”

Carlisle smiled over at her. Jacob was smiling, too. “After you’ve had some sleep,” Jake responded for both of them. Carlisle nodded. “Besides, I want to tell Charlie. He and Dad are out in the waiting room.”

Bella sighed. She really WAS exhausted. Jacob helped her snuggle down into the bed a little more, and then followed Carlisle out the door. She was soon fast asleep.

Life with a newborn in the apartment was very different. Bella was glad that Angela had accepted when she’d offered her a job as bookstore manager. She had a feeling she’d be keeping her on for a lot longer than she’d expected. She was glad she’d hired someone to run the register, too.

Leah had thrown Bella’s shower, and Alice had been invited, so they had everything they could possibly need for a baby, and it was all extraordinarily fashionable. Most of it Bella had laughed over, after all the women had gone and Jacob had found her sitting bemusedly amidst piles of wrapping paper, half-finished punch and more presents than she knew what to do with.

But admittedly, having a car seat for each of their vehicles was helpful, and as little Charlie grew, Bella found herself using more and more of the items they’d been given. She took to sitting with him downstairs in the bookstore - reading to him, or just holding onto his hands while he lay in her lap and gurgled. That’s what gave her the idea for having a story hour for local children. She contacted a few of the larger preschools nearby to see if they would be interested in such a thing, and got a very positive response.

Unfortunately, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to keep any set schedule for that sort of thing. After a few weeks of pondering, she talked to a local radio station. Sure enough, one of their morning show DJs was willing to come by once a month and read through a short story with the local kids, in exchange for getting their name and station logo on all the marketing pieces. She and Angela worked on that intermittently between Bella’s attempts at afternoon naps and feeding time.

Jacob needed far less sleep than Bella, and waking at all hours of the night didn’t seem to bother him. He frequently spent an hour or two in the dead of night dancing around the living room with his son, to prevent Bella having to get up. He treasured those times.

The best times, though, were when the members of the pack who had children all got together. Little Charlie often shared a playpen with Mike and Leah’s daughter, Liza, while Sam and Emily’s toddler ran around it, teasing them, and occasionally throwing in stuffed animals. As long as he didn’t try to take the stuffed animals back out, it remained a lovely game.

Bella’s vision was never far from her mind, or Jake’s. Shortly after Christmas that year, she became pregnant again. By this time, she spent almost no time in the bookstore, but it hardly mattered. The store seemed to run itself, for the most part. She was fairly certain that was because of Angela, and she paid her accordingly.

Bella knew early on that this pregnancy was not going to be anything like the last. She got tired much more quickly, and sooner in the pregnancy than she had the first time. After seven months, she was placed on mandatory bed rest, which was ridiculously dull, even with unlimited reading material at her disposal.

Little Charlie was getting around pretty well on his own by this time, and she couldn’t keep him out of trouble all by herself, so he spent a lot of time with his namesake, when the shop was too busy for Jacob to stay home with them. Emily, Leah and Angela helped out a lot, too.

Nevertheless, only a month of bed rest had passed when Bella woke up from a fitful sleep and felt a familiar wetness in the bed. She swore, and shook Jacob’s shoulder weakly. “Jake, get up, we have to go to the hospital.”

Jacob swore too, when he pulled back the covers to lift her out of bed and discovered there was more than water dampening the sheets. He called her father from her cell phone after carrying her down to the car, and asked him to come and stay with Charlie. As he drove, as fast as his Rabbit could take them, he glanced over at Bella and realized she was crying. He set his jaw and reached over to squeeze her hand.

He called the hospital to make sure her doctor was working, and aware they were on their way, and the hospital promised to page him. He lived closer than they did, the nurse assured him, so he would probably be waiting for them. That only made Jacob press harder on the gas pedal.

When they arrived, he pulled right up to the ER, and watched helplessly as they loaded Bella onto a gurney. When he tried to follow, they stopped him in the hallway. “I’m sorry, sir. You can’t go in there.” Jacob scowled down at the woman, but she was a brave nurse, and held his eyes until he turned on his heel and went back to the waiting room, suppressing a growl. After only a minute in a ridiculously small plastic chair, he went back out to the car and moved it out of the way, trying to ignore the blood on the passenger seat. Bella’s cell phone was still on the floor where he’d dropped it earlier. When he’d parked the car, he picked it up and dialed a number Sam had made him memorize years ago.

And he got the one person he didn’t want to talk to. “Hello?”

“Carlisle Cullen, please,” Jacob said through gritted teeth.

“He isn’t here.” The voice had turned cold, and Jacob realized that Edward had recognized his voice as well.

“Is he at the hospital?” he asked, hopeful.

“What do you want, Jacob?”

Jake took a deep breath and controlled the tongue of flame that lashed down his back. This was Edward. Edward loved Bella, and would surely help him if he could. He swallowed hard.

“Bella’s gone into labor. It’s a month too soon. She was bleeding before I could even get her out of bed and – “

“I’ll find him. We’re on our way.”

The phone went dead in Jacob’s hand, and he closed it, realizing he was gasping for air. Saying the words – explaining it like that had broken through the calm he’d been trying to maintain ever since he’d seen the blood on their sheets. He wiped the tears from his face, and took a moment to get a grip on himself before going back into the hospital. His questions were met only with requests that he please have a seat and the doctor would be out to talk to him shortly. He looked at the blue plastic chairs in disgust and paced, instead.

Finally, Dr. Martin came through the door, and took him back into the hallway. “If you’re here, who’s with Bella?” Jacob demanded before the door had even swung shut behind them.

“Dr. Cullen is with her now,” the man replied, looking uncomfortable. He recalled perfectly how Jacob had reacted to Carlisle’s involvement the last time. But, to his relief, Jake only nodded.

“Good. I want to see her.”

“I’m afraid I can’t allow –“

“Dr. Martin?” The brave nurse interrupted, walking briskly toward them from the other end of the hall. “Dr. Cullen has asked that you send Mr. Black in to see his wife.”

Jacob didn’t look at either of them, but set off in the direction from which the nurse had come. He could follow the smell of vampire to find them. He didn’t even notice them running behind him to keep up. He pushed open the door and closed it quickly behind him. If Dr. Fang needed to do anything superhuman to save his wife, it was best there was no audience.

Carlisle and Bella were alone in the room. “How is she?” he asked. But he could see how she was. In three long steps he was beside her bed. Her head rolled toward the sound of his voice but her eyes were unfocused.

“She’s going to be fine. I had to give her an epidural. The child was turned wrong, and the cord had wrapped around his neck, but I’ve managed to get things straightened out. She should now be able to give birth normally.”

“Jake?” Bella whispered.

“Why’s she so out of it?”

“She’s lost a lot of blood.”

Jacob remembered the mess in his car that he’d purposely kept his eyes away from and a shudder passed through him. “But the baby?”

“Will be fine. Obviously he’s quite young, but there is no reason he shouldn’t be perfectly healthy, now. The greatest danger will be stabilizing Bella after the birth.” Jacob stared at him with an expression of fear frozen on his face. “I am better equipped to manage that than Dr. Martin, so I took the liberty of signing your name to a document that stated you preferred that I handle the birth.”

Jake nodded, and took Bella’s hand when she reached for him. He put his other to her forehead. His concern only grew when it felt warm to him. “It’s going to be fine, Jake,” Bella whispered. “You’ll see. Carlisle can do anything.”

At this, Jacob chuckled darkly. “I know.”

“This will probably go better if you wait outside, Jacob,” Carlisle said after a moment. Jake threw him a dark glance, but kissed Bella’s forehead gently and went to wait in the hallway. It wasn’t crowded, being the middle of the night. He saw Dr. Martin and the nurse whispering together twenty feet or so away, but didn’t approach them. There wasn’t anything to say. He didn’t want them in there, in case it made it more difficult for Carlisle to work. He lowered himself to the floor, his back against the wall, and rested his elbows on his knees.

Eventually, Charlie and Billy showed up, carrying his sleeping son. Some time later, the nurse approached them, and took them to the waiting room on the maternity ward, where they spent a very long night.

Jacob awoke, groggy, to the sound of Bella arguing quietly with her father.

“I don’t understand what you’re upset about. Everything turned out fine. I’m fine. William is fine. What does it matter how Carlisle managed it?”

“Bella, it isn’t RIGHT. That room should have been filled with nurses, just in case something went wrong. And from the sound of it, EVERYTHING went wrong. If you had died because he was too proud to ask for help –“

Jacob tried not to shift in the uncomfortable vinyl hospital chair. He could picture the exact shade of red that Charlie’s face would be, just from hearing the tone of his voice.

“Carlisle would not have let me die, and certainly not for this ego you imagine him to have. If he thought it was best that the room be cleared, then that’s what was best. Considering that I’m here to argue with you about it, I can’t see why you’re so upset!”

Jacob heard the whispered argument clearly, and wasn’t sure how to interrupt. He was, as he’d often been, impressed with Bella’s ability to sound affronted when asked perfectly reasonable questions. She’d truly become a good liar since she’d returned home from college. And Charlie was no match for her.

“There’s just something not right about it. And Jacob signing that form to give Carlisle carte blanche over the whole situation. Carlisle’s not an obstetrician. And I didn’t even know they HAD forms like that.”

“Dad, Jake lost a little confidence in Dr. Martin back when I had to go on bed rest. He’d been promising us that wouldn’t be necessary all along. I imagine when things got bad, he probably just wanted to make sure we had the best doctor possible.”

Jacob suppressed a grin. He was supposed to be asleep, after all. But he knew she had him. Everyone knew that Charlie thought Carlisle was a wonderful doctor.

Charlie seemed stumped by that, and eventually, he heard him mumble, “Well, Carlisle really is a better doctor than a town this small could hope for.” Then he looked over at Jacob. “Do you think we should wake him up?” he asked.

“Let him sleep,” Bella replied. Jake could hear the warmth in her voice. “I imagine last night was harder on him than on me. I got to be unconscious for most of it.”

Charlie shook his head. “I should go. I need to call Renee, and I’ll pick Charlie up from Leah and Mike’s place.” As soon as he was gone, Jacob opened his eyes.

“I knew when the snoring stopped that you must be awake,” Bella teased him, smiling tiredly.

“How are you feeling?”

“A little groggy. It’s hard arguing with Charlie when I’m not sure what all went on. I gather Carlisle needed to work alone?”

Jake dragged his chair over to her bed, whispering, “It was a very near thing. He says that’s it. No more babies.”

Bella only smiled, taking in the sudden wetness in Jacob’s eyes. “I had a feeling…”

He held her hand in silence, thankful it was squeezing back. Thankful it was warm. Because he’d spent half the night with the knowledge that if he couldn’t save her life, Carlisle would certainly still save her.

“Have you seen him?” Bella asked after a moment. “Did you get to hold him?”

“I mostly saw him through the glass. He looks a lot like Charlie did. Carlisle only let me hold him for a few seconds, and I think he was breaking the rules. The nurses looked scandalized.” Jake smiled her favorite smile, remembering.

“How long does he have to stay in the hospital?”

“At least a week, maybe more. And you’re going to need a few days, too. They had to give you a lot of blood.” Bella grimaced at that, remembering a time when Edward had been so put out by the change in her scent due to transfusions. She pushed the thought aside.

The first time Will woke Charlie up screaming in the night, Jacob moved his crib into their bedroom. When it happened again anyway, he promised himself they were moving out of the small apartment as soon as possible, and started asking Jared’s dad about building on the reservation.

Bella came up from the store one afternoon, several months later, carrying Will and guiding Charlie carefully up the stairs by the hand, to find Jacob at the dining room table alone. Story time had just finished, and it was the middle of the day, so she was curious what had dragged him away from the shop for once. She set the gate at the head of the stairs behind her and let Charlie loose. He immediately ran for his father, but fell. She grimaced. He was as klutzy as she’d ever been. She hoped he eventually inherited his father’s easy grace. She followed him, but he was already up and running again.

The table was covered with huge sheets of thin paper, which in turn were covered in blue lines and tiny text. She squinted over Jacob’s shoulder and he grinned up at her, his smile like the rising sun. She felt a little more energetic just seeing it and hefted Will on her hip. “What’s all this?”

“Blueprints,” he stated, still grinning.

Bella rolled her eyes and plopped down in the nearest chair. “Yes, I can see they’re blueprints. What are they for?”

“I was thinking the apartment is kind of crowded. I thought maybe it was time to build a house.” Jacob glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, his head turned toward the drawing in front of him.

Bella looked surprised, but not unhappy with the notion. “Build a house? Where?”

Jacob turned to face her. This was the tricky part. He wanted to move back to La Push. But Alice couldn’t ever visit there, and he knew she and Bella were still friendly. They went shopping every so often, and Alice had delighted in coming to the baby shower before Charlie was born....

“I was thinking maybe in La Push,” he offered worriedly. But he needn’t have worried. Bella’s face lit up.

“It would be great to be closer to Billy. I haven’t been able to get over there to help out like before, and I know he’d love to see the boys more.” She bit her lip, her eyes darting to the drawings and back to him.

“Here, take a look,” he said quickly, grinning again at her acceptance. He tried to show her the first drawing but within minutes she was shaking her head.

“Jake, I can’t make any sense out of that. You’d better just choose what you think will work. Although –“ she trailed off.

He looked over at her curiously, and she looked thoughtful. “Well, it might be better if we had an extra room, you know? For Billy. In case he ever wants to stay with us.” Jake’s answering smile was blinding.

“That’s a great idea!” He shuffled through the stack, and removed several sheets, placing them on top. “Four bedrooms, at least,” he explained. Bella laughed, and caught Charlie by the wrist. His fingers were just curling around the corner of the pages that had captured his attention. Jake noticed her hands were full, and scooped him up, standing. “But we can look at these later. Quil’s handling the shop. Let’s do something fun.”

“Like what?” Bella asked. It was nearly time for the boys to be put in their rooms so they could cry about having to take a nap until they actually fell asleep.

Jacob knew the schedule. But he wanted them along for the ride. Also, driving could sometimes get them to fall asleep without the crying. “Let’s drive out and look at the land,” he suggested. His excitement was so evident that Bella agreed easily. Clearly this was something he wanted very much.

For her part, Bella was content in the apartment. But she loved La Push, and had a lot of good memories there. And Jacob wanted to move back, which she could understand. They drove out to look at the site, and Bella grinned the whole time, though of course, it was just forest and she could in no way visualize a house situated where Jacob was pointing.

It was only a few months before driving to the site of their new house became a daily occurrence. And every time she went out there, someone was working. By the time the main structure was complete, and they’d started on the roof and interior, her father had taken to cruising passed daily as well. His visits slowed down the pack’s efforts considerably. They could not continue tossing boxes of shingles from the ground to the roof while he was hanging around chatting with Sam.

Jacob tried to divide his time between the shop, the house, the pack, and Bella and the boys. He didn’t sleep much. She finally had to put her foot down, and he took a vacation from the shop entirely, but at least the circles under his eyes went away. Quil didn’t seem to mind, and some days the shop was closed while they both went out to the house. Quil joked that it was all in clever scheduling.

Leah and Angela helped Bella pick out all the things the men weren’t interested in, like carpeting and counter tops. It was the busiest year Bella had ever lived through, and then one day, very abruptly it seemed to her, it was done.

After Jacob closed the shop, everyone piled into the Rabbit. He’d told Bella he was taking her to a movie. They dropped off the kids at Charlie’s place, but she knew something was up when he headed in the opposite direction from the highway. She glanced over at him and noticed his mischievous expression. “What are you up to?”

Jacob shook his head and kept driving. “Jake?”

He looked over at her. “It’s done,” he said excitedly. “I want to show you.”

They’d been working on the house for so long that its state of completion had escaped Bella’s notice. “What’s done?” she asked, confused.

Jacob laughed out loud and sped up. Bella figured it out when they crossed the treaty line. “The HOUSE is finished? Are you kidding?!” Then they both laughed, more from excitement than amusement. Bella was out of the car as soon as it stopped, but Jacob caught her before she could go in, and scooped her off her feet in one easy movement, letting her head dip dangerously close to the gravel.

“Not so fast, Mrs. Black,” he teased as she smacked his chest, laughing. He carried her into the house and set her down with a flourish. “Welcome home.”

Bella didn’t look around at the house. Instead she turned back towards the warmth in his voice and snaked her arms up his chest and around his neck. “Welcome home,” she repeated, stretching up on her toes as he leaned down to kiss her. Bella had to break away first to breathe, but his arms were tight around her waist. “The boys are spending the night at Charlie’s, aren’t they?” she asked, breathless and hopeful.

Jacob laughed, delighted she approved. “That was my master plan,” he admitted, ducking his head. She was kissing him again almost before he’d finished talking, but he didn’t mind. Having toddlers around the apartment all the time had made spontaneity almost impossible. He’d missed it. And when she dragged his tee-shirt up over his ribs, he guessed maybe she had, too.

“Half-naked doesn’t bother me so much anymore,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to his chest. He chuckled.

“Good, because I don’t plan to be half-naked very long, and I’d hate to think you were disturbed.”

He reached behind him and closed the front door, looking forward to a very long night.

They spent several happy years in that house. The boys grew like weeds, and were both tall for their age at four and five, respectively, the year their mother turned thirty.

The weeks preceding this birthday had been filled with nightmares that Bella wasn’t able to remember or explain to Jacob. They woke the family repeatedly; even Billy, who’d taken up residence in a room on the first floor not long after the house was complete.

The best way Bella could explain was to say that she was dreading something, but couldn’t think what. Another few weeks passed, and the nightmares ceased, to be replaced only by a restlessness Jacob hadn’t noticed in her since their first years together. But the circles under her eyes didn’t fade, in spite of her admonishments that he shouldn’t worry. That she was fine.

And she WAS fine. Until suddenly she wasn’t, and might never be again.