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.
4. III: Consequences
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chapter III consequences
By the time Edward was back downstairs, there were already a lot of voices getting raised in anger and panic.
“How can we even trust what you’re telling us? Being able to deliver us to your bloodsucker police force actually sounds like a pretty agreeable deal for you.”
“Yeah! How do we know we aren't just walking into a trap? Having to fight a lot more of them than would be able to attack us out in the open so they can clean us out a lot easier.”
“And why is it up to you to decide how we're going to deal with this anyway?”
“Paul! Leah!” Jacob agitatedly spoke up in a voice louder than anybody else, sounding close to losing his temper, addressing the ones who had started getting everyone riled up. His face was mutilated with stress; there was nothing young and smooth about its features at the moment. “You’re not helping things. Be quiet.”
Jacob was the only one standing very close to the Cullens, in the gap between the end of the room where they were grouped and the other where the pack was. Standing almost right in front of him was Carlisle.
“I have to say,” Jacob said, “I can understand why they would question this. Why exactly are you so willing to help us? It sounds like the Volturi are really not the kind of vampires you want to mess with. And aren’t you violating some law yourselves by trying to stop them?”
“Getting in their way is definitely not advisable for anyone,” Carlisle confirmed with a regretful look. “But it’s probably much less of a risk for us to fight them than for many others. I am somewhat old friends with Aro, the one who usually speaks for all of them,” he admitted with some uncertain hesitation, and Jacob lifted an eyebrow in response to this. “As you can guess, we have always had many differences in opinion. He will see all of this as just a sport. As much as they can justify this attack with their law to keep our existence secret, that is really all it is. Dog killing. I have no doubt that it will take Aro by surprise that we choose to fight with you because having any sympathy for your kind, just like for any humans, is something he simply does not understand. He will surely try to make me come to my senses and talk me out of it because he would rather not have my family fighting against his forces. But ultimately, there is only one rule they require all of us to follow, and that does not even include not killing one of them. With a terrible lack of a better way to put it, our kind live in a dog-eat-dog world.”
Some of the others laughed bitterly.
“So sorry this is going to cost you your friendship,” Jacob said sarcastically.
Carlisle shrugged. “Aro is more the ambitious type who values useful connections with people, not friendship and loyalty. Hethinks he has more to gain by staying friendly with me than not.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Because several members of this family are so exceptionally gifted. That is just the kind of thing the Volturi are always looking for in people. They are so lethal because Aro, Marcus, and Caius have spent a very long time looking for the most talented and powerful vampires to have join them. And that is why I suspect they would order their fighters to defend themselves from us but try to be a little careful about dealing with us when we stand in their way. As we will explain to you, there are vampires among them with ways of incapacitating but not harming us if they needed to take advantage of that. But don’t worry. We will not be going easy on them.”
Edward had come to stand near his father’s side. “Perhaps it can be said that we owe it to all of you for helping us so cooperatively when those newborns came here. And if you still are not convinced that it isn’t that great a sacrifice for us to offer you help,” he said more quietly, “remember that one very good reason for my family and I to care about stopping them from doing this is upstairs right now.”
Jacob seemed to turn to look at Edward with some reluctance. “Right,” he said with sarcasm. “Because it looks very convincing that she apparently isn’t even willing to be part of this meeting. If she hadn’t been the one to call and arrange this little party, that would look awfully suspicious. Does she even include herself in this?”
“Of course she does,” Edward responded with some anger.
He looked away from him, starting to look more passive. “In that case, maybe I’d rather this was just some trick she wouldn‘t be a part of.” He spoke so quietly that nobody behind him could hear.
“You think I‘m happy about it?” Edward shot back, some deep distress showing in his voice which he had been containing before now.
Jacob looked at him for a long, silent moment, clearly bothered. “What’s going on?” he demanded in a low voice. “Why'd she leave like that?”
Carlisle turned to look at him, his eyes joining those of several others who really wanted to know the same. Edward sighed and just answered, “It’s not anything you think.”
Jacob groaned and rolled his eyes, not enjoying the reminder that Edward really could see everything he was thinking. Deciding to get back to more pressing matters, he turned to Carlisle and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear again. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s imagine that with the help of all of you, we could actually defeat however many of these leech cops show up to try to exterminate us filthy dogs. But then what? There’s plenty more of them where they’re coming from, right?”
“That, I’m afraid, is not clear,” Carlisle said unsurely. “I don’t know what the highest number of them is that the Volturi will be willing to risk losing before they decide it isn’t worth it and just give up. To be honest, this could turn into quite a mess—an extensive war rather than just one battle. But there will have to be a point at which this will start to seem like too much trouble for them. In time I’m sure they will discover other problems elsewhere that are more dire for them to attend to than this one. Even very soon, after Aro sees we are willing to risk ourselves to stop them from getting rid of some werewolves we have made a treaty with, he could decide for the sake of convenience that perhaps their law does not so explicitly prohibit such a thing. Making exceptions for anyone is not their way at all, but having quite flexible interpretations of the rules sometimes is…The newest addition to my family might never have lived to become that if it weren’t for some leniency she was showed when first introduced to them because of Aro’s particular interest in her potential,” he added a little gravely.
In reaction to this, several of the Quileutes gave each other surprised looks and murmured to each other. Jacob just kept staring forward and swallowed, frozen still.
“You said they’ll be coming at midnight on Saturday?” he asked.
Jacob looked around aimlessly at the room on the Cullens‘ side. “I need—I mean…Could I please use a phone?”
It earned him some strange looks that he was asking them, and being sure to be polite about it. But none of his own friends could have carried anything with them but the minimal amount of clothes, of course; they were all barefoot and wearing just pants except Leah, who had on only some skimpy shorts and a wife beater. Edward, still standing closest to Jacob, took his cell phone out of his pocket and held it out for him with a blank expression, and Jacob took it without looking him in the eye.
Knowing because of his thoughts he heard who he was going to call, Edward could not help but watch him a little curiously out of the corner of his eye as he dialed the number a little unsurely and hesitantly. After he put it to his ear, many others were also still paying attention to him, and they must have been expecting him to be calling Billy or someone else who would be waiting to find out what this was all about, because there were some visible reactions of surprise when they heard him start talking in a casual and light tone.
“Hey!” he said after someone answered. “Oh good, I did get your number right. Yeah, it’s Jake. Listen. Uh. How would you like to cover for me at work this weekend?…Oh, come on. Please?…Yes, it’s really important…”
Behind him, Quil and Embry both snorted quietly in a display of slight immaturity, seeming to know who he must be talking to and being in on some joke. It was quite easy to tell just from their reactions that it was a female.
As everyone started dividing into having their own personal conversations, Edward looked up toward the part of his bedroom door on the floor above that could be seen from here. Behind him, even as Jacob was talking on the phone and trying to sound like everything was fine, his eyes focused close on Edward as he did this.
Alice and Esme did not let the moment waste long before coming over to Edward and bombarding him with their own questions.
“What’s wrong with her?” Esme said quietly.
“Should I go talk to her?” Alice asked.
“I…I don’t know,” Edward said unsurely to her.
“Why, is she mad about something?”
“Alright. Sure, sure,” Jacob was saying with a stiff laugh, about to finish up his conversation on the phone. “And I‘m still picking you up tomorrow, right?…Okay. Thanks, Lilah. I owe you one…Yeah, that’s true, you do kind of already owe me your life,” he said teasingly. “Uh-huh, you too. See you.” He let out a relieved breath when he could finally flip the phone shut, going right back to acting much less at ease.
“No, she’s not mad,” Edward answered Alice as Jacob went right to his side. “She just…may not want to have to explain right now.”
“Hey, let me use that, too,” Collin said as Jacob held out the phone to give it back to Edward, coming up and snatching it quickly out of his hand.
“Well,“ Jacob said to Edward, crossing his arms now that his hands were empty, “you’re going to explain now that we have a moment…If you please,” he added reluctantly.
Edward let out a long sigh and then looked directly at him. It seemed to practically cause him pain to have to explain it. “Does it mean anything to you if I say that it seems you are Bella’s ‘singer?’”
Alice’s jaw dropped; Esme’s eyes widened. Jacob just kept looking at him, blinking, and shrugged. “No,” he said. “What the heck is that, some bloodsucker slang word?”
“Actually, that’s exactly what it is," he said with a dark laugh, "at least among our kind in Italian-speaking regions. That is what they call what Bella was to me when she was human.”
He looked as lost as ever, still struggling to understand. Esme and Alice exchanged a look and went away to talk to the others, as if realizing this was actually a sort of private discussion for them to be listening to.
Edward sighed again. “Vampires all eventually develop different tastes in the kind of blood that smells the best to them, once they have been around long enough to start recognizing the differences in the way humans taste. Bella has actually reached that stage much, much sooner than is normal, but I still never imagined something like this would be possible right now, if ever. You see, sometimes there will be a certain human whose blood is particularly irresistible to one of us, just the right…flavor or whatever you want to think of it as.”
“Right,” Jacob said. “I knew about something like that.“
Edward nodded slowly. “The first time I got close enough to Bella for her to attract me this way, it was practically a miracle she survived,” he continued, waiting for it to sink in. “And I am not exaggerating just to brag about the strength of my self-control.”
Jacob’s eyes were starting to go large, daunted. It seemed he could hardly imagine it himself, but he was starting to understand.
“And it seems you might be pretty lucky to be here right now yourself,” Edward said, sounding very disturbed. “Do you see what I am trying to tell you?”
He kept appearing to be in a state of overwhelming disbelief for a few more seconds, but then he just raised his brow in a more carelessly astonished expression, and looked back at Edward‘s face. “Well,” he said lightly with a bit of a smirk, giving a short laugh. “That’s inconvenient, isn’t it?”
Edward just stared for a moment, and then sighed in agitation; Jacob could only be finding this the least bit funny because he could tell how much it bothered him.
“You can laugh all you want,” Edward said. “It‘s your funeral.”
“It looks like I have plenty other things to worry about killing me first,” he said.
“That is exactly why something like this could not have happened at a worse time, you moron,” Edward said severely. “There is no way she can be even close to ready to be around you by the time we have to do this. She has to be concentrating on making sure she doesn’t get killed, not making sure she doesn’t kill you. Even I will be distracted having to worry about looking out for her that much more.”
Jacob shrugged. “Then I guess she better stay plenty far away from me. Or…maybe she shouldn’t come at all.” His eyes brightened at the idea.
“You better know that sounds like an excellent plan to me, too. She has never had to do something like this before and I hate it. But of course there is no way she would agree to it.”
He nodded. “Yeah. She wouldn’t.”
“And my family goes into fights together or not at all,” Edward added. He glanced briefly over at Jasper where he, Alice, and Emmett were talking quietly with a vaguely disturbed look. Then, with a different thought, he looked back at Jacob. “I might not have expected that you would still be so concerned about what happens to her.”
He seemed to have meant it as almost some kind of expression of gratitude, but the slight surprise in his voice made Jacob’s face harden into near fury, even though he just maybe was surprising himself a little, too. Not this. He was not going to bring this up. It was not for him to blame or judge Jacob whether he cared or didn’t care if she died—if it can even be called that when someone’s life isn‘t even really life to lose anymore. He could not have any idea how much harder it might be to accept that she was still alive, that she still had more to lose, after he had started living with the idea that she was not.
“Go to hell. Really,” Jacob said, a tired and useless attempt against someone who could see right into his head and had access to all of his weaknesses anyway. Then he turned away from him.
Maybe Edward felt bad for saying anything. A little. “I don‘t think I can,” he muttered to himself after he had walked away.
With that, he had seen it: Jacob Black had not taken it well. He had to admit that he didn’t really know how anyone could learn to accept a loss like that. Instead of making him sympathize very much, the thought frustrated him. As long as Jacob still had to hurt like this, it seemed like he should at least be able to feel like he had won in some way.
But truthfully, he didn’t. Nobody had really won. Everyone had still paid somehow. Between the three of them, he knew their pain and their happiness was all still connected in a chain that could not be cut at any point on its whole length no matter how much the opposite ends pulled hatefully from each other. Because of this, none of them were completely happy. It seemed that just when they felt like things were fine, everything else they thought they were past was always going to come back to haunt them.
Emmett had only been kidding about it, but maybe part of her really did want to get rid of that bracelet, to forget. It was no use. It would always turn up again, interrupting the perfect and happy melody.
They arranged a time for everyone to meet at the house again to start talking about what kind of strategy they would have to use against the Volturi. Soon they would have to start practicing fighting somewhere outside, but for at least one more meeting they thought it might be important that everyone be in a form that allowed them to talk.
It was now well into the morning and the Cullens were scattered all over the house. As Rosalie got ready to take a bath, she lifted up her hair to let Emmett undo the clasp on her necklace for her and said conversationally, “Wanting so much to bite a dog. Ugh. I can’t imagine…”
Emmett shrugged and said, “I suppose stranger things have happened.”
“What stranger things?” she asked doubtfully.
Bella heard everything through the wall from where she was sitting with Edward in their room. There were never any secrets in this family. Even when she had been human, she had never felt so alienated in this house before.
She had been almost completely silent ever since everyone left, as if she was in a state of shock. It filled her with so much horror to know what almost could have happened earlier today that it was almost as bad as if it really had happened.
She tried not to think about it too much. Her mind stayed back away from it to protect itself, like someone not getting too close to touching something hot that would burn. Nothing had happened. It was all right. Still she hovered dangerously close to the heat and could not help but think, But what if…?
She had almost killed him. She hadn’t been ready for this at all, and she knew she really could have. And then...Then what? There could only be blackness and nothing after it if she did something like that. It would destroy all of her and everything so she would never even know what had happened. That had to be how it would be because she could not put herself in the circumstances, imagine having to swallow all that, enough to decide how she could possibly live with it. It just could not ever happen.
All of her and everything suddenly nothing. She had never been able to think that anything could ever happen that would be bad enough to make even having Edward mean nothing and not be enough. But this…She did not know. She could not touch it. It could not happen.
All along, Edward was being just about as quiet as her. This bothered her as much as anything. She knew he wasn’t, but it felt almost like he was mad at her.
“What do you think this could possibly mean?” she asked quietly beside him, needing to finally say something. “It’s just insane. Why him?”
“I don’t know,” he answered in a very deliberately even tone. “I am not sure that it means anything.”
She was unwillingly setting a trap too easy for him to step his foot into; if this meant nothing, then their unique kind of bond perhaps had always meant less than they thought it did.
Just seeing the way his face looked was making her feel so guilty, even if there was no sense in that. It was like she had made the mistake of falling in love with somebody else all over again. She leaned her head in close against him, fitting it into the crook of his neck as he leaned his head against hers, and took his hand.
“I know you don’t really want to hear this,” she said. “But please promise me something. Don’t ever let me hurt him.”
“Isn’t it a little late to do anything to prevent that?” he said before he could think twice.
She went coldly silent.
“I’m sorry,” he amended right away. “That was not funny. Of course I already swore to do all I can to make sure you never make any mistakes, and that includes keeping you from harming him.”
Bella would not look at his face. “So are there any new juicy scandals among the wolf pack you can tell me about from what you saw when they were all phased?”
“Nothing like what was happening before,” he said, sounding almost disappointed. “But there is one pretty important thing I didn’t have to read their collective mind to know about, because Sam Uley was worrying about it almost the whole time."
He turned his head and looked down at her face. “Emily is four months pregnant.”
She closed her eyes a moment, sighing again. “My God,” she whispered.
“You think so optimistically,” he observed sarcastically, but he spoke in a bit of a dark tone; he could not be sure that things weren’t completely hopeless himself.
“Edward, they can’t find out about that!” she said, panic rising in her voice as she realized something horrible. “You know what Aro said. Their intention is to kill off the bloodline. If Sam leaves behind a baby, there’s still a direct descendant of—”
“Yes, I know,” he said seriously. “I was thinking that might be reason to be worried. Everything is so much harder to be sure we can keep from Aro with that collective mind of theirs and mine that might as well be part of it. Perhaps we should advise Sam to have Emily go away to hide somewhere else until this is all over with, somewhere she will not even tell him the location of.”
“You don’t think Demetri would be able to find her?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I feel I have a pretty good understanding of how his power works from being around him and reading his thoughts. Unless he took note of it when he might have been near her, the particular sense of her mind would not mean much to him. They do not think they have any reason to be interested in the people connected to the pack in any way, so I doubt he paid enough attention to her to be able to find her again. And if they do not even know that she is pregnant, I think we can assume he probably did not end up seeing her at all when he was searching La Push.”
This made Bella feel a little better, and she went quiet. There was a long silence that slowly filled with some discomfort as they both knew who he was not going to tell her any other news about until she asked to know.
“How much could you hear while you were up here?” Edward asked.
“Everything,” she answered. “Unless there was a bunch of whispering going on I didn’t know about.”
He hesitated before prompting her, trying to guess what she wanted to ask but wouldn‘t. “Do you want to know who he was talking to on the phone?”
It had not been far from her mind, but now it was right in the middle of it. “I could barely make out her voice…Was she somebody important?” she asked, maybe hopefully. Maybe. It was hard for him to tell.
He had to think about that first, but eventually he just answered, “No. She isn’t really important. Not like that.”
“What do you mean?” For some reason, she wanted him to explain it clearly in his own way, even though she thought she could already tell as much about how Jacob really felt about this woman just from the way she had heard him talking to her on the phone—that he liked her a lot, certainly cared about her, maybe could easily love her if it was a completely different world, but had to pretend so much with her it could be exhausting. Perhaps she wanted to hear from Edward that these things she had been able to guess were wrong.
He was quiet a moment again before he just said what was germinating the silence with so much tension. “He’s still in love with you.”
She sighed softly. “How do you know? Or how does he, I mean. He hardly even got to see me.”
Edward's face became hard and stony. "You're still the same person," he said, his voice full of conflicted anger, as if he couldn't decide if he would be relieved or just feel like killing Jacob if he really stopped caring about Bella just because of that.
After a while that they said nothing more, she loosened herself from him and stood up from the couch, heading for the door.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
She turned back around to look at him, seeming to wish he wasn’t making her say it. “I need to go hunt,” she explained.
He nodded. Of course. It would be necessary in the coming days that she not be hungry.
“Let me go with you,” he said.
She shook her head. “It’s okay. I think I want to stop by Charlie’s for a while, too.”
If it weren’t for the kind of time they were in now, he might have gently said something like “You just did not long ago.” There was really no point in her going over and watching her father the way she did, paying him her own kind of “visits.” It made him worry sometimes that she was unable to completely let go of the things from her former life, that she was starting to regret that she had to give it all up the way Rosalie made no secret she did.
But after all, this could be her last chance to see his face for all they knew.
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