What Music They Make
When an unexpected conflict with the Volturi brings Jacob back into her life, Bella finds that being a vampire only makes it even more complicated for her to be in love with two people.
12. XI: The Song of Orpheus
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chapter XI the song of orpheus
Being a vampire meant that compulsively re-organizing things when she wanted to put her mind on something meaningless for the time being did not take Bella very long at all and was not as useful for keeping herself busy as it used to be. She had just finished arranging all of her books she had kept in the office by genre when Rosalie came in to find her.
When she approached her and she and Bella met eyes, there was a careful silence before Rosalie finally gave her a gentle smile, the kind to stop someone from being scared away that looks very deliberate. “Emmett was sure you’d say no,” she started to explain, “and you probably don’t really feel like it. But we’re going to see a movie and I just thought I’d ask if you feel like getting out of the house to do something for a while.”
“Oh.” Bella was relieved that she was not here to bring up any of the things she was worrying about enough without others making her talk about it. She did not think about it very long before shaking her head. “Thanks, but I don’t think so…Is Edward interested in going at all?”
Rosalie looked mildly surprised by the question. “I didn’t ask him. I thought he left with Carlisle.”
Bella stared at her, standing still for a moment as she listened closely for all the quiet voices and movement she could hear all over the house. Carlisle had left a while ago because he had some things to pick up at the hospital, but she knew Edward had still been home after he left…
“You mean he’s not here?” Bella asked, her voice raising a little.
Rosalie just looked at her, slowly realizing why this disturbed her and starting to look a little shocked and uncomfortable. “Oh, he wouldn’t…”
“You know he would,” she sighed. “Alice!”
“She and Esme just went hunting,” Emmett answered from downstairs.
“Oh, that’s convenient!” Bella called bitterly, crossing her arms.
“She feels really awful for allowing it, Bella,” she heard Jasper saying. “She’s ready for you to want to kill her when she gets back.”
“She should be!”
“Bella,” Rosalie said in a surprisingly soft tone, looking at her sympathetically, but she did not say what she seemed to want to. Bella could tell how she was struggling to remain somewhat neutral when she could probably understand why Edward would do this and Alice would not want to get involved.
When Edward came back twenty minutes later, he found Bella waiting by the piano, leaning back against it with her arms crossed and looking severely displeased. Not needing to guess why, he just stood facing her in silence while everyone else who was in the room suddenly found excuses to leave so they were soon alone.
Finally she just shook her head. “I can’t believe it,” she said in more anxious than angry tone, though there was enough anger showing in her face already. “You told him.”
“Are you really so surprised?” he asked. “I was quite worried about you suspecting what I was doing soon enough to find and stop me.”
“You know me better than that,” she replied flatly. “I suppose I’m too trusting to think you would be waiting for the chance to sneak around behind my back.”
He just looked at her very guiltily, unable to say anything of any significance in his defense. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it. Would you be able to just sit around and do nothing in my position?”
She sighed, already knowing she could not quite blame him. “Don’t worry. I’ve forgiven you for playing dirtier than that before.”
A shadow of discomfort crossed over his eyes to hear that, as if something about the words deeply disturbed him. Then he said, “He wants to see you.”
Her face became hard and anxious again. “Oh, please…I’m not ready to do this right now!”
“That is fine if you don‘t go right now. He is willing to wait all night if he has to.”
She gave an exasperated sigh and started walking past him toward the door. “At his house?” she said, sounding agitated again as she very reluctantly moved.
“No. At the boundary line. Right where we used to meet him when I dropped you off to see him.”
“…Oh.” Somehow, even though she shouldn’t have been surprised, it seemed like it could mean something that he wanted to meet there.
It was just Jacob. She shouldn’t have had so much fear creeping into her as she left the house and started to run out into the dim, young night. But somehow she had a terrible feeling about all of this.
Jacob was sitting inside his car waiting when she got there. She expected him to get out when she came and stood right in front of the boundary line, but he just sat there a long while, not even looking directly at her.
"Are you going to get in?" he finally said quietly, looking up at her through the window.
“You’re asking me to cross the line?” she asked in surprise.
"Nothing you haven't gotten away with before.”
"Because nobody was supposed to know."
"Well, everybody does now, so what does it matter?" he said, starting to sound a little impatient. "Why, would you rather just stay here?"
He gestured to the surrounding forest. Bella looked around and just said, "I don't mind either way."
He only looked back away from her, waiting silently again.
She sighed and went forward to his car, getting into the passenger seat. As he started driving away, she asked, "Why did you even want to meet here, then?”
He kept looking right ahead, almost as if he hadn’t paid attention to the question, and hesitated to answer. “I thought it might not be safe unless you‘re with me.”
“Safe?” she echoed, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah. If any of the others smelled you running around here and found you…it just might be bad. Since they know now what you told me…”
“Oh,” she said, now sounding a little vacant, as she understood.
“I don’t mean to make it sound like…They’re just really messed up over this, some of them. Especially…”
“Leah,” Bella said quietly, easily able to guess who he was thinking of. In fact, she was pretty sure she was the only one hurting so much that he could really be worried would cause Bella any harm even knowing that it would hurt him.
Jacob glanced over at her for the first time since she had gotten in the car, looking right down at her lap after noticing her fidgeting a little in her seat. Her hands were agitatedly grabbing small handfuls of her dress where they rested on her legs.
He laughed in a way that sounded almost mean. “Now it bothers you to be around me,” he observed.
She did not look at him, staring forward through the window with a hard expression. “It’s been almost two whole days since I’ve seen you,” she pointed out.
He did not say anything more about that, just watching the road with piercing, locked eyes that seemed to so deliberately avoid her. He started drumming his fingers on the steering wheel with forcibly contained distress. Somehow neither of them could say what was really on their minds yet, but the boiling silence between them then was anything but comfortable as they both already knew exactly what was going to be said. They just weren't ready to pull the pin out of the grenade yet.
When Jacob eventually pulled the car over to the side of the road and stopped, it seemed a little spontaneous and his mannerisms suggested that he was just tired of driving in silence and had no idea where they should really go. Bella was a little surprised when she saw exactly where they were. Right outside her window she could see the cliff above the ocean that a lot of the reservation kids liked to dive from. The exact place she had dived from once.
"Why did you stop here?" she asked a little uncomfortably.
He shrugged. He still would barely look at her as he spoke. "It's as good a place as any."
They just sat there for the time being, neither of them moving, as if they may not even get out and just talk sitting here in the car. He glanced at her long enough to see the look on her face as she peered out at the ocean. "What's wrong with it?" he asked. "You afraid you'll be tempted to jump again?"
She crossed her arms over her chest, looking right away from the familiar view.
"Wasn't there some philosopher who said when somebody has a fear of heights they're not actually afraid of the possibility of falling, but afraid that they could jump?"
"I don't know," she said quickly, almost snapping at him. She didn't know why it kept feeling like they were arguing whenever they said anything.
"There was," he went on surely. "I think one of my teachers said something about it once. It was part of this whole weird idea he had that absolutely everybody is always at fault for their suffering, no matter what. 'Cause I guess for one thing, you're always free to quit complaining and end it all by just jumping off a building or something." He raised his brow then, looking to the side at her. "I guess you're an exception to that when you can't die. Without some help, at least."
"I can still take some responsibility for my life," she said a little severely, as if she felt offended. "If I chose to become immortal that means I'm still at fault for everything that happens to me and everything I do, doesn't it?"
"Touché," he said. "You sure you haven't heard of the guy?"
She very abruptly turned and opened the car door, suddenly stepping out and slamming the door behind her with obvious frustration. He also got out and followed her as she walked out near the cliff.
"What the hell are you doing, Bella?" he demanded, his own anger finally completely showing in his voice.
"I'm not doing anything yet," she said, sounding deceptively calm as she stood facing the vast horizon of dark waves with her back to him.
"How can you even be considering it?" he said as he went to stand right next to her.
She turned her head to look at his face, just looking sadly at him, her brow creasing with anxiety. “How can I not?” she said softly.
Something seemed to make his breath catch, but his own face did not soften. “Are you even thinking about what this is going to mean for you?”
“Of course I am. And of course I’ve already been asked that question ten times in the past two days.”
“That’s crap,” he said. “You can’t be thinking about it or else you’d realize you’re being crazy.”
“Don’t think nobody’s said some variation of that to me already, too.”
“For Christ sake, Bella!” he yelled. “When are you going to stop doing this?”
“Doing what?” she asked, shaking her head in confusion.
“You already gave up everything else for him!” he said, some buried emotions starting to wrench themselves out in his voice. “You have barely anything left to lose! If you throw yourself away all over again like this, there's going to be nothing left of the person you were before."
"What does it matter? I can never have that person back…You can never have that person back,“ she added in a somewhat restrained tone. “And it was hardly much to lose for me, anyway. I hated that person."
"And you hate the person you are now, too," he said. "Maybe even more. That's obvious. Only somebody who actually believes they deserve to suffer would think seriously about doing this."
“And maybe I do. Maybe it’s dignified if I can accept responsibility for everything I’ve caused and pay for it. It certainly can’t be any worse than having to live with all those regrets without ever being able to do anything about it.”
“That’s just easy to say right now because you’re already dealing with the regret. You could come to find it’s not worth it at all.”
“It’s only for eighty years.”
“Only? That’s the rest of my life!” he shouted, his voice tearing with an uncontrollable hint of inner torment.
The words caught her off guard; she tore her gaze away from him, looking down at the ground as a strange pain she wasn’t prepared for seized her. It was something she had barely been able to think about, but she had definitely realized it.
“…I know that,” she said quietly. “Don’t you realize the only thing that will make it bearable is knowing that at least you get to live all of it?”
He nodded slowly as she looked back up at him. “Uh-huh,” he said in an ironic, dark tone. “I know. You’ll think of me whenever things get really horrible.”
She looked back at him with some confusion, not knowing quite how to interpret his reaction. “Yes,” she admitted. “I probably will.”
“And will you think of me the next time they find a pack of werewolves they feel like killing?”
She looked at him with widened eyes, not prepared for that.
“Will you still think of me when you have to kill one, maybe fifty years from now, maybe a lot later after I’m dead?” he pressed on. “Or will you just have forgotten why exactly you came after a while?”
“They wouldn’t make me do that,” she said quickly, shaking her head.
“How do you know? The moment that you‘re ordered to, is it going to be much of an excuse that you never knew it would happen? And never mind the kind of stuff they do every day. Would you really be able to murder some completely clueless newborn who had no choice about being turned and was just abandoned by whoever created them?”
“Nothing that I would do as part of their guard is anything that can be stopped anyway!” she said. “The Volturi rule this world we know. They have for centuries without anyone stopping them. We can’t beat them in this fight, and nobody can beat them. Everything I would have to do is just something somebody else will do in my place if I don’t.”
“It doesn’t matter!” he said. “You are never going to be the same after you’ve done those things. That’ll be no kind of life for you, no matter what your reasons. Can’t you see that?”
Her eyes started to look a little dead, numbly processing something. “But it is the kind of life for me, whether I like it or not. This is what I’ve become. The Volturi are the essence of my kind, remember? I knew that. I knew what I was getting myself into. Now I might as well just accept it. It’s an easy solution, Jacob. No more lives will have to be lost this way.”
"If my other option is to live knowing your life has become about efficient slaughter and servitude to a bunch of murderous leeches like them, I think I would rather die," he said angrily.
She sighed. "Have we come back to that again? Me trying to stop you from so willingly going to die in battle?”
He looked a little stung to be reminded of that time. "But I was only bluffing then,” he said. “Just like you had to. I'm completely serious now, Bella.”
“It’s not even fair for you to expect the rest of the pack to still have to fight them,” she said.
He looked clearly troubled to have this pointed out to him, but after a moment he just said, “Believe it or not, some of them would rather still fight than just be saved by a vampire. They’ve gotten a little eager and bloodthirsty now. If Leah can’t just kill you then she wants to take down somebody for her brother. And you might have noticed we wolves can be a little bit cocky about our ability to win a fight.”
“Dangerously so. I haven’t forgotten how lucky I was not to lose you that first time.”
When he heard this, something made him go silent, looking at her like he was seeing something he hadn’t yet realized.
“Is that nearly all this is about?” he asked quietly.
She kept looking back at him in silence for a couple seconds before just staring forward again, crossing her arms in a somewhat defensive-looking position.
Jacob sighed heavily. “Look, Bella,” he started in a harsh tone. “This is ridiculous. You know it is. You’ve got to let me take care of myself. All of us. You know, some of the others don’t even think they want your help anymore. They’re getting tired of their fates being planned between you and the Volturi behind our backs like this.”
“Are they crazy?” she asked with shock.
“Well, whether you like it or not there’s going to be a little more tension between us and your family now. And this little truce we’ve called has been nice while it’s lasted. But the treaty is still between enemies. We may be fighting next to each other, but we're not supposed to care what happens to each other. We're not supposed to suffer for each other. Just worry about yourself and your own and stop trying to protect a bunch of dogs."
She started to look deeply saddened as she realized what he was trying to say. “We’re not enemies, Jacob,” she said quietly.
“Yes, we are!” he said loudly, trying to pound in something he knew was probably impossible to make her see; he stepped closer to her so he was almost yelling in her face. "Maybe we can get along peacefully, but whether you like it or not, we are! You made a choice! You chose to become this!" As if to demonstrate what he meant he took her face and held it firmly, feeling the chill of her skin on his palms, and he looked like this disturbed him more than he had ever let it show that it did before as he stared right into her topaz eyes. "You can't change your mind and have it both ways, Bella! So quit trying.”
As he let go of her, she shook her head denyingly. “But I can’t just let go of who I was before. How can I just stop caring? How could I stand it if you died because of all this when I could have stopped it?”
“I don’t know,” he said bitterly. “I suppose the same way you plan on dealing with it at whatever time I happen to die, since I'm obviously going to be doing it while you're still around."
“But it’s not supposed to be now!”
"Bella, you can't have me!" he said firmly, leaning in to peer close at her again. Instead of still angry, he sounded pained and regretful now, hating to have to say it. "Not as your friend, not in any way anymore! You have to let me go, even if it means accepting that I'll have to die!"
"No," she said unwillingly in a soft gasp.
“You’ve got a whole family who don’t want to lose you and a husband who you’re going to drag along with you into whatever fate you choose. You gave up so much and hurt so many people to have this life, so just live and be happy with him and forget about me.”
"Oh, fine," she said with sudden anger, sounding terribly stung even as she shouted it. She reached for the bracelet on her wrist as if she was ready to tear it off. This seemed to momentarily throw off his guard and she could not miss the change in his eyes as she reached for it, looking so hurt for a second as if she had just touched a wounded, sensitive part of him even as they were standing feet apart from each other. But his face went right back to looking more invulnerable and he did not say anything as she took it off.
“I suppose all your promises are worth nothing,” she said angrily, holding it out to him like it was something contemptible he was responsible for. “Take this back if you can’t be my friend anymore. If you really mean everything you just said.”
He just looked at it with a slightly shocked expression, not moving. “I don’t want it,” he said quietly, looking a little like he was scared to go near it.
Looking almost furious because of how she suddenly moved so fast, she turned around like someone would move to face somebody they were about to shout at or slap, walking out to the edge of the cliff. Then she quickly flung the bracelet over it, where it was visible to him shining in the moonlight in midair for just a split second before it disappeared in the dark, falling into the black sea below.
They both watched it and then stared down in the direction it had fallen for what felt like a very long time, seeming to slowly calm down and realize what exactly had just happened, register what it meant. When she finally looked away first, facing him again, he met eyes with her and appeared to be filled with a sudden unbearable sadness.
“That’s not going to make any difference, is it?” he asked quietly.
She looked back at him with the same sadness, not having to answer. He could see that nothing was bending her. He did not know what to do anymore.
They stared at each other for a long time with no sound around them but the waves crashing up strongly against the rock. It felt like something was being emptied out of them in this moment, as much as it could be. They both realized that this could be it. If she decided to go, this could be the last they ever saw of each other. Bella’s hands at her sides took hold of the fabric of her dress where the wind was softly blowing it against her legs, as she had in the car, but not for the same reason. Her posture became a little rigid, like it was taking so much effort to stay standing.
“Goodbye, Jacob,” she said weakly, the words coming out with so much reluctance that it was only said in a very soft breath.
At first he could not move or say anything. She stayed standing there for a long moment still looking straight at his face, waiting for him to say anything he might say. Then she started walking, looking like she might not even start running for a while, weakened so deep in her soul she just could not focus on anything but drifting off away from him slowly. But when she was barely passing him he finally sprung into movement, stopping her from getting past him by wrapping his arm around her.
“Wait, Bella,” he said desperately, holding onto her tightly to keep her from leaving. “Please—”
“Don’t,” she said, stepping back away from him quickly like she couldn’t bear to have him touch her. He looked down at her and seemed to take careful note of this reaction, the way she drew her arms in and wrapped them around herself a little as if to forcefully hold them in place away from him.
And then his face started to change, almost imperceptibly, as something gradually started to come to him. His words came out sounding unsure, like he was discovering them as he said them, listening to himself to see if he could really believe them.
“I don’t think you’re really even capable of doing what you’re thinking about doing,” he said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because...you were right. When it comes to how you feel about me you’re not completely selfless. It's not just because you think this is your fault that you're so willing to do this. That‘s just the only reason you can admit to so easily. But at some point you’ll have to see that, and I think maybe you’ll realize you can’t do it.”
She shook her head in bewilderment as she heard this. “What are you talking about?”
"I don't think you'll be able to go to Italy because it will mean you can never see my face again."
It knocked her silent at first. But she did not sound quite certain when she replied, unable to look right at his eyes as she said it, "No matter what happens I should probably never see you again…"
"Yes, but I don't think that plan is going to work anymore. Things are different now and you know it. It used to be so obvious to you that it would be a lot more difficult for you to be without Edward than to be without me. Even I believed that meant you really did love him more, but who knows? Maybe these things just don't always have to be so obvious. Maybe the way you felt about me was just different. And now everything's a little switched around, isn't it? The competition has leveled out quite a lot."
"There is no competition!" she said, looking in disbelief of what he was saying. "There is nothing to be sure about! It's over.”
“But it’s not over. It’s never going to be over, even if you want it to be. It doesn’t matter if you stop wearing something I gave you or never hear from me anymore. You really can’t let go of the person you used to be, and I think that’s a part of why you’ve become so unhappy. Maybe the only reason it’s so easy for you to think about joining them is because it’s hard for you to imagine your life going back to being all okay again anyway. I can see you can’t just forget about me. It’s killing you right now just for you to try to walk away from me.”
“Watch me,” she said challengingly, moving again, but he came closer and grabbed her arm to hold her there.
“Please. Listen…” There was something very strange and unlike him in his voice now, unsure and almost scared. “I didn't mean all that about how we can't be...You know I didn't mean that. I see now. I see now that...there's no way we're ever going to be completely separated from each other. Even this couldn't do it. I mean, I guess in a way you being changed has actually just made it worse..."
She stared at his face in silence, just looking full of despair as all his words rang so true. What could he mean to accomplish by saying it all out loud like this? How did he think this could do any good?
“Look…it shouldn't have to be like this," he went on, not sounding quite like he could believe his own words but was just grabbing whatever he could right out of the air. "I...There can always be a compromise. It could be okay..."
"What are you saying?" she asked, starting to sound a little guarded and wary.
He swallowed, and she could hear his heart starting to pound a little erratically, like someone being chased. “Think about it, Bella,” he said quietly. “Look into yourself. Think about why you really feel like this is the only thing you can do. Think about what it is you really want. You know in your heart that things have changed. You have changed. But you can be such a stranger to yourself. Hell, there's more of the real you in me than there is in you. But if you don't realize what I'm talking about before you decide to go away, you could have some terrible regrets."
“You are not making any sense to me,” she said in a low voice, and it sounded like a warning.
“I could still survive this,” he continued. “None of us are just completely giving up hope yet. And if we both came out of this, things wouldn‘t have to be so bad. Just stay, Bella. Stay…with me.”
Her eyes started to go wide; she stepped back away from him just a little. Then she shook her head quickly, as if denying something to herself, and appeared to become forcefully composed again before she let out a dark, bitter laugh. “Oh yes, that‘s very funny,” she said with a fake smile, an edge of near-hysteria vibrating in her voice. “You’re the one bluffing this time. I guess you think this is a good way to get back at me for before…”
“I’m serious,” he said.
“You can’t be serious!” she said. “I know you can’t. You know that’s impossible.”
“Nothing’s impossible. It’s not like I’m asking you to leave him.”
"Well, that just makes it more impossible, doesn't it?" She turned away from him, raising a hand over her mouth for an instant like someone who had just seen something revolting. Then she turned back and said in a smaller, scared voice, “Look, I don’t know what you think you’re doing but please stop it—”
“I know you don‘t want to hurt him,” Jacob said, and something still seemed so wrong; his voice was still very feeble and unconfident, almost unrecognizable as his because of how it sounded now. “But you’re already hurting yourself possibly a lot more. He’s desperate to stop you from going. And he would forgive you anything, wouldn’t he?”
Her eyes widened larger than ever, starting to look furious. “There is also self-forgiveness,” she said tightly.
“As if you can so easily live with yourself as it is. Look at everything you’ve done and caused. You let all that happen without thinking about whether you were being right or wrong so you could be with him. Can’t you see how it couldn’t be that much worse to compromise yourself as much as you’d have to to be able to be with me?”
“Oh, is that the way I should see it?” she said angrily, looking almost hurt. “I might as well do whatever I want because I can’t be any worse for it anymore?”
“I’m just asking you to go easy on yourself for once. You’ve got to stop cutting yourself in half and just accepting the pain you have to live with because you think it’s what you deserve for getting the three of us all into this mess when none of it was even your fault. It’s not like being a martyr is going to make anything any better. Maybe it doesn’t have to be such a mess that you want both of us in your life. Maybe it just…is.”
Her eyes had now filled with a firm anger that wouldn’t budge, and she started shaking her head. “You can’t mean this,” she just said quietly, almost just whispering to herself. “I know you don’t...want me now."
“I didn't mean what I said,“ he went on, words frantically spilling out of him and sounding almost unconscious. “I don't care that we're supposed to be enemies. I don't care that you're like this now. It doesn't change anything. You know it doesn't."
"Shut up, Jacob," she said in a low, threatening voice like a growl. But through it all there was something devastated in her eyes as she shook a little with her hands in fists, wanting so badly not to have to be so angry with him — not now. “Or I will leave now and not even—”
"I mean it. I love you, Bella."
By now he was speaking in a much softer voice than before, but she sounded hard and murderous. "I swear to God, Jacob Black," she said dangerously, her very level tone showing how serious she was even as it clearly killed her to have to say it. "No matter what happens after tonight…you say one more word and I swear I will never speak to you again."
He just stared at her a few seconds, and then he took a couple patient steps closer to her. He said with his voice softer than ever and with the smallest, almost undetectable tremor in it, "Let me kiss you."
As she glared at him then she looked almost like she could kill him, standing frighteningly still. But as she had promised, she said nothing to him. As he slowly stepped closer, she jerked back a little as if to keep the same distance between them, but then froze still as if she was too angry to move or think about what to do.
“Just now,” he said. “Just once. So you can see if you really think you can leave…Then I will stop trying to convince you not to go and leave you alone. I promise.”
His voice, so soft and passive in comparison to how hers had sounded a moment before, was almost like a coaxing song to calm something dangerous as he slowly approached her. It was somehow hypnotic right now, making it all feel harmless, and it kept her standing in place and made her hands relax out of their fists.
But she stayed rigid when he brought a slightly trembling hand to her face. He stared down at her with heartbreakingly empty eyes, looking like he was willing himself not to feel and just slide through this without letting it quite touch him inside.
He wouldn’t. This was what she kept telling herself, the insisting thought that kept her from moving and immediately recoiling away from him as he kept getting closer. She did not want to have to just turn and leave him. And what was so cruel was that he couldn’t mean it. She still knew there way no way, and she didn‘t know what was happening. He would stop and finally show himself, reveal his real intention, so she would not have to just leave like this or else hate herself more than ever…
And after he brought his face down, his anxious breaths warm touching her skin, he didn’t do it. Yet. He looked right into her eyes like he was waiting to see something change in them first.
All at once becoming aware of herself again, she snapped her head to the side, looking right away from him with a soft, quick breath like a gasp. As if resigned for a moment, he slowly lowered his face to her neck instead. It was all too much like that last time, him trying to warm and loosen her, let her relax into her real self. But it was different because he was hesitant, only planting the softest, tiniest kisses on her cold skin that might feel only like the breeze brushing away a strand of her hair with a human's senses. He was terrified. She could see it. He was sticking his hand right into the broken pieces of glass, sharp shining edges, all that remained of what she once was that could only hurt him, nothing but deadly beauty and blood and pain. He wanted to save her this much. Her cool and sour-sweet scent, so unbearably close, was stinging icily in his nose like mint that is much too strong, a natural warning, and he didn't care, he didn't care.
Without her letting them, her hands raised to his hair and held onto him firmly, because she told herself she was only going to touch him to — only enough to — something — she didn‘t know. And without realizing it she pulled him a little closer.
It was that day again and all of his pain was all of hers again, and she couldn't not do something when she could suddenly feel how much he was hurting. It was impossible not to. Touching him then was as natural and impulsive as it is for someone to keep their hand held over their own stinging, bleeding wound, and to not do it would have been as hard as cutting one's own hand off, like mutilating herself. And yet a buried, faint little voice in her head she didn't quite hear through the drone whiteness knew it was not enough. It would never be enough to make it okay. Not anymore. He weakly, unsurely pulled her close against him so that the heat of his body suddenly seemed to be enveloping her all around like a womb. His hot breath on her skin and the warmth of his hands burning right through the thin cotton of her dress made her feel like she was on fire, stimulating parts of her she had become numb to so that she felt the pain more tangibly than she had in years.
But she let herself sink almost completely into it and down in the dark, reaching down to grip onto his back desperately, and it felt like burning in flames of hell touching him but she did not know if she would ever be able to let go now that she was this close. She knew. She was not selfless at all. She wanted this and she could not and he could not really, but something inside her hoped that everywhere her hands touched him she would brand him with ice, marking and claiming him as hers.
But he still did not kiss her mouth. He would not do it until she would do it…
Bella had never been very good at expressing exactly what she felt. Things she would never have the lack of reservations to say consciously always used to fight their way out of her mouth in her sleep in nonsense streams of words that could be almost impossible to understand, escaping all run together like a crowd of people bumping into each other as they run for the only exit out of a building that's on fire. But of course, she could not talk in her sleep anymore.
Right then it was as if all of these things she had never been able to get out by saying in her sleep recently were now trying to push their way out of the bars as wordless, helpless sounds that escaped out of her and sounded like the senseless language of a complete stranger, someone outside of herself. Breathed right into his ear, they were barely audible gasps that seemed to almost come out as words, trying to find the shapes of truth but just sounding lost. It was so much like she was trying to whisper something at one point, as Jacob was kissing her right under her jaw, that he brought his lips right by her ear and said in a soft, sad-sounding mutter, "What?"
And this was what woke her up — his voice. What. No. Stop.
His gruff, shocked groan of pain was not nearly as loud as the gasp of horror she let out as he was sent straight to the ground, automatically reaching up to touch his cheekbone where his face had started throbbing.
As she completely came back to the moment, feeling the cool sea breeze on her skin again instead of the burning fire, she didn’t know just what had happened. She had not meant to hurt him. Maybe she had wanted to. But when she had quickly reached for his head to force him away, she had forgotten for a moment that she had to be careful with him, that she could hurt him, and the heel of her hand had collided with him like a swung metal baseball bat. Maybe as she was so caught up in the reminders of that day years ago, she had forgotten what she was now...
He stared up at her from the ground as he kept holding his face, which would surely just be crushed from the impact of her hitting him if his body was no stronger than a normal human’s, looking not at all angry but just more hopeless than she should ever have to remember someone like Jacob Black looking. They just held each other’s gazes, frozen as the shock of everything that had just happened in so short a time settled in and crystallized to hard ice.
Then as her face slowly changed to hold a much more fully realized sadness, she stopped looking right at him as if she was suddenly thinking of something else. Following the thought, she turned her head toward the cliff, looking out at the ocean with a deeply pained look just like what had briefly shown in his eyes when he saw her start to take off the bracelet. She turned and walked toward the edge of the cliff, with a very sudden sense of urgency as if she did not have eternity to find it again. And in one swift, quick movement she dashed right to the edge and jumped. He ran after her to stop and watch just as her pale form, gracefully pointed for the dive with her arms stretched down, went into the water.
She had closed her eyes as she fell, feeling the wind so fast on her face as the night around her suddenly seemed so beautifully calm. It felt like it was the first time she had truly breathed since she had been changed and no longer needed to breathe. She even took a deep breath before she held it, just as a remnant of old habit. She made only a small splash, her body slicing right through the surface in a direct trail of exploding bubbles and cutting far down into the dark depths right away, everything still blue for only a split second before the water around her turned black. As she swam deeper and deeper, searching with so much desperation it was like everything precious to her depended on finding it, she remembered. She wondered what it would have been like to really drown here if Jacob had not come in after her and saved her soon enough. This was where everything had changed. It was so silent under the water, so dark, that it felt almost like really being dead. And it was very peaceful.
Out in the open night air, a different world, Jacob stared down at the waves loudly crashing against the side of the cliff. His heart was pounding in his ears, seeming to be counting every second she was gone. He did not know why he felt scared for her after two minutes went by since she had disappeared under the surface. And then more time dragged on. He thought she was never going to come up. Everything had turned into back then instead of now, and somehow he felt like she was waiting for him to follow, just like he had had to the first time she jumped.
He turned away from the edge, still hearing the waves louder than they had ever sounded to him before from up here, and began to step forward as if he was just testing himself, seeing if it seemed like he should walk away. But it was like something held him to her where she was still down there in the past, and he couldn't step any further. She might not come back up, after all. Maybe she was just going to swim off without seeing him again.
He turned and looked down at the intimidating vast ocean below again, feeling completely torn apart. He understood in this moment how it was going to be. He knew that he had failed. Again. She was already gone and there was no point in going in there after her. He was never going to change her mind. He realized then that maybe he had just been trying to make her hate him, if not realize she loved him far too much, enough to do almost anything, enough to almost give in, and that was why…
But nothing had worked and he was losing her again and the last things he needed to tell her were screaming in his head. I’m sorry, I just had to see. I didn’t want to hurt you anymore. Forgive me.
When he jumped, it was so spontaneous and with so little thought that it was more like he found himself falling. When he went in, at first all he saw of her was a glint of silver in the depths where some moonlight still touched the water. As he followed it all of her appeared, facing away from him and just passively floating there with her hair in a dark cloud around her like an explosion of ink. She might have just found the bracelet and seemed to just be thinking about what she was going to do now.
He took her wrist where the bracelet had been replaced and pulled her around to face him. And the words screaming in his head were gone now in the silence of the deep water, not needed. Her hands were as cold as metal laid on each side of his neck and her lips just as icy as she pulled herself closer and kissed him, closing her eyes. With her breath stopped and her eyes closed as if she could be dreaming of seeing something different around them, she did not see him and she did not smell him. Down here they could be young or old, vampires or werewolves or just humans again, dead or alive. It was the only place where it felt like their love could live, here at its grave where any kind of life they might have had together had ended. He may have been able to save her from drowning, but Bella had still died that day. That day was what had brought Edward back to her and changed everything.
With his own eyes also closed, Jacob did not realize she had started swimming up and pulling them both to the surface until he felt his head hit the air. Once he was taking in deep breaths and opened his eyes to look around, it was just barely soon enough to see her dark head disappear under the water again, already several feet away from him. He knew very soon she would be too far away for him to have any hope of catching up. She was gone.
Without another word.
When Bella drifted vacantly back into the house she left the front door standing open behind her. Only Esme was downstairs and saw her come in, and as she watched her walk in with her face frozen in a blank expression like a ghost, Bella did not seem aware of anyone’s eyes on her. She made it only six steps inside before she sank to her knees on the floor, momentarily not caring enough to even keep moving.
Before she knew it Esme was on the floor as well and holding her, gently saying her name. Bella closed her eyes tight, falling completely against her as she soothingly touched her hair.
“Oh, Bella. Sweetheart…Edward!”
He was already coming swiftly down the stairs. But Bella knew it would be no comfort to see his face now. It could only make her ache with guilt.
Perhaps he somehow perceived some of her reluctance to talk to him when they met eyes, for he stopped and stood in front of her and Esme instead of coming right to her side. Esme stood up, gently pulling Bella up onto her feet with her, and softly kissed her head before going up the stairs and leaving them alone.
She and Edward only regarded each other in silence at first. She made herself look straight at his face even though she felt too shameful to. He seemed to see something in her face that frightened him a little; he looked down at the floor, away from her eyes, as he was finally the first to speak.
“It’s alright,” he said quietly. “You don’t have to tell me what happened.”
“Yes, I do,” she whispered.
He just shook his head, looking back up at her sadly.
Then she looked down at the floor, shoulders sinking acceptingly, and then she knew what was to be done. She could have come forward then and embraced or kissed Edward, accepted his comfort, but she didn't. She needed to be hard as steel, not budging. She walked right past him to go up the stairs and he followed her into their room, watching with a look of slight horror as she went to the dresser and started taking out the few items of clothes she might need.
“I know what I’m going to tell the Volturi on Wednesday morning,” she said. “There is nothing you can do to change my mind now. And…you will not come with me.”
“What are you talking about?”
"This is bad enough for me without you involved,” she said, turning to face him after she set down a pair of pants. “I've decided. I can't possibly make this choice if you are part of it. Not if I have to choose between you and him again. I just can't do that."
It was easy to see how deeply it hurt him to hear that. She could barely stand to keep looking in his eyes.
"I would hope that your choice would still be the same," he said very quietly.
“You know what I meant,” she sighed. “This is different. It’s worse. This is so much bigger and more complicated than just what you and I want. I suppose it never was that simple to start with but we just couldn’t see it at the time. The world does not change for love like ours, no matter how much we might fight and kick and scream and rebel against our families and friends or nature or God. Just because it feels like we’re destined to have each other doesn’t mean destiny is on our side or we have any right messing with it. Doing it for you doesn’t make anything I’ve done okay. If you love me, you have to let me do the only thing I can do in order to live with myself anyway. If I choose one of you it can only be for a disgusting and despicable reason. I can only save both of you.”
“How can keeping me from being with you be your idea of saving me?” he asked.
"How can the kind of lives we'll be living in Italy be your idea of being together? Can you even imagine it? You will never believe that it's worth it. I would just be dragging you down like a weight chained to you."
"Perhaps that is what you are, even if I would never see you as such a burden."
"Then I'm cutting you off!" she said with a sudden heat that she surprised herself with. "This is not for you! I don't want you to practically sell your soul for me!"
"Isn't that what you did for me?" he said back in an equally elevated voice. "Isn't that what you're doing for him?"
"At least I'm not doing it for a selfish reason this time," she said before she could stop herself. "There will be more time for us. You could still come see me. And I will look forward to the end of those eighty years and being with you again every day. But if I do this to make sure Jacob can live, there is no way I'll ever be able to see him again. Which is probably the best thing for my soul now, don't you think?"
He looked like he had been slapped. "I would never think that. Don't talk that way. Do you think this is what you deserve?"
She stared a moment, swallowing, and then turned around to open a new drawer and take out some more clothes.
“I am sorry you feel so strongly about this,” Edward said, his voice panging with regret. “But if you expect me to respect your choice, then you must respect mine as well.”
Something flickered through her head briefly, and a moment later she could tell from the way Edward stiffened all over that the second’s consideration had not escaped from Alice’s sight.
“And I would not bother trying that,” he said. “You know Alice would take my side with this and never let you get away with it.”
She closed the drawer with a frustrated slam before she continued to pack the few things she planned to take with her in silence.
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- 06 Feb 08
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