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.
6. V: Bête Noire
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chapter V bête noire
Edward stood with Bella far from everyone else near the front door as the other fifteen were all randomly gathered near the back glass window. Jasper stood facing everyone else as he explained what they needed to know about the vampires in Bella’s portraits, on which he had now written an estimated height for each one along with their hair colors just for good measure, and what they could expect in a battle with them.
“Marcus and Aro,” Jasper said, pointing to the drawings hung up in the middle of the row, “along with Caius, who we do not have pictured, are the three oldest of the Volturi. They will only be there commanding, not fighting, but it is still important to know what they can do. If Aro touches you, it allows him to read not just the thoughts you are having at the moment like Edward can all the time, but every thought you have ever had. He will know everything you know. We need to be careful about this because there are certain things that may be more helpful to us if the Volturi do not find out about them.”
Bella thought she saw him glance over at Alice, and she wondered if she had ambiguously clued him in about something to let him know how important that was. Practically confirming the suspicion, Alice then looked behind her just a moment and met eyes with her. As if to make the action look more casual, she just waved at Bella with a dry smile as if to express pity for her having to stand back there.
“So if you can help it, try not to even let him near you,” Jasper said. “You never know how he might be able to use things he finds out against us. And know that any information you trust someone in this room with may not be completely safe.”
When Alice had turned back around, Bella found Edward’s eyes on her, looking confused.
“She has been doing this a lot lately,” he whispered.
“What?” Bella asked.
“Trying to keep something from me by not thinking about it in my presence. Right now she is reciting in her head how much of the number pi she knows for memory. She’s on something like the eightieth digit.”
She did not trust herself to be very convincing about pretending this surprised her, so instead of saying anything in response Bella just looked back at Jasper as he kept talking as if she was trying to keep paying close attention.
“Then there is Marcus, whose talent I am afraid we cannot do much to avoid having used against us,” he went on. “He can sense the relationships between people. He will know who among us each of you is the closest to. He will be able to tell which of you has authority over the others, who is in love, who do not get along so well, who your brother or sister is, who your best friend is. He will be able to see who you might be the most protective of in battle. He will know that if…What is your name?” he stopped to ask, pointing at one of the werewolves.
“Jared,” he answered.
“Marcus will know which ones of you are the most likely to come right to help Jared if he gets in trouble, and who might even leave someone else who could also use some help in order to do that. He can tell whose death would weaken your ability to keep being careful about defending yourself. Yes, you need to think about all this,” he said as he was met with several disturbed expressions. “The Volturi might be counting on you to react irrationally and dangerously to things like that. Do not go running to fight three vampires by yourself no matter how mad as hell they might have deliberately made you.”
For a moment, Bella thought she could see that even as he spoke almost coldly about how everyone would have to be careful to control their emotional reactions, he seemed to be struggling to keep himself so composed as he talked about this.
Her eyes moved, not at all for the first time this night, to where Jacob was standing on the far left side of the cluster of people that was the whole pack. The strong compulsion to attack him was certainly not as intense now that she had just hunted. She probably could have handled standing even closer to him than this, and it was mostly for the sake of it being less unpleasant for her to be around him that she was standing back here rather than for his safety. In a slightly shameful way, she hoped he did not realize this.
Earlier, she had thought to ask Edward how exactly he had reacted to finding out why she was behaving so strangely around him. “It came as quite a surprise to him—as to everyone,” he’d explained. “But he did not seem to think much of it.” This he had added in a sort of degrading tone, as if it showed Jacob’s ignorance and made him very stupid and careless for not taking it more seriously.
As she looked at him now, she could not help but think, Well, he is stupid.
But this was only followed by a disconcerting realization as she thought of who she was standing next to. So was she.
“It doesn’t matter!” She could hear Edward almost mockingly repeating the words she had said when he drove her home from Port Angeles and the truth came out, his voice full of complete disbelief at how easily she could accept it. As he was always trying to explain to her how the smell of her blood made him crazy, in the weirdest way, it used to almost make her feel flattered even though this was definitely not his intention.
Such a bad idea, but it never felt like it was anyone’s idea. An impasse. He had tried not to love her, while all along she only ever thought, Please, love me.
Stupid. It was almost funny to think about now.
At least it was some consolation to remember that despite everything and all the risks they took she was still here now. He had never given into that temptation. It was not hopeless. However…
Her head darkened with a further realization. However, he had ended up biting her, in the end. Even after all the time he was so determined to never let that happen. She had never thought of it this way before, as losing, almost. But she could imagine that was how it would seem to some others.
She looked over at Jacob again, who was turned inward toward everyone else so that she could see his face. It hurt her a little to look at him. Even though he had not aged a day since she last saw him before being turned, something about him looked so different. There was nothing left of that easygoing, youthful look he used to have when just seeing him smile in that way of his she could still remember clearly could make all of her pain subside for the time being. He still had his hair grown long, and she could not help but wonder why if it made him have such an unneeded excess of fur when he phased.
She had always thought he looked better that way. Maybe somebody else would think so, too. Somebody who could mean more to him than that girl on the phone. Maybe he might still imprint on someone some day.
She wondered if she really wanted that for him or just for herself, so she could stop feeling so horrible because she was unable to do anything to make him stop being unhappy. For if she actually tried to picture it in her head, imagine who in the world would be good enough for him, she found she did not want to think about Jacob with anybody else at all. Just the thought momentarily weakened her with a dull, distant jab of pain. She supposed she could not help it, that there was no getting over it. No matter how happy she would ever be with what she had, part of her was always going to feel like that. Part of her still wanted a claim on him somehow.
But whatever it took to make it better, she could live with it. Anything to take that heaviness from his face…
She clenched her left hand into a loose fist, having to get a grip on herself for a moment as it felt like some fragment of herself was leaping right out of her body toward him, so eager to do nothing but take him. He was standing right there within reach and she had to remind herself to tell her body to stay right here. Letting her mind wander so much seemed to have lessened the strength of the barrier she held in her mind to keep the monster instincts from spilling right out and filling her.
But as she kept breathing steadily, his scent so potent to her in the air that it made the unpleasant stink of all the other werewolves easy to ignore, she was not finding it too hard to keep from thinking about how easy it would be to get to him before anyone could stop her with him standing so close. Maybe she had not actually been losing her control over the urge to bite him for a moment. Maybe she just wanted to touch him. She wanted her arms around him to be able to make him stop looking miserable as they used to be able to do. She wanted more than that, she was ashamed to realize. But for being right there, he now could not seem more out of reach. Everything was different now. She never would have thought it could ever seem more possible for her to kill him than kiss him.
She crossed her arms as if to restrain herself. How could she be thinking like this? It had been so much easier when she didn’t know that she loved him—when she had taken it for granted that she couldn’t think of him that way. As if he suddenly felt her looking at him, Jacob slowly turned his head just a little and glanced in her direction. The second he met eyes with her she turned her face down to look at the floor. But she thought she could tell he was still looking at her for a few seconds. He had not been with her nearly enough to be used to the way she looked. It must have been something so strange to see that in a morbid way it was hard to look away once he started staring. She wondered if he would ever be able to just get used to it.
Not that there was any reason he should. After this…if they got out of this alive…she was sure she would just be gone from his life again. That was still for the best, now more than ever. And yet for some reason it was a little jarring to realize this. Saddening.
Jasper had started to explain Jane’s powers, and Jacob said something for the first time in a while as he squinted to peer at the drawing of her. “Geez,” he said. “Shortie.”
Some of the others laughed a little as they also noted the height written below Jane’s face.
“Yes,” Jasper said, nodding. “Alec and Jane are twins. They’re only eleven or twelve years old. Physically, that is.”
Surprised murmurs filled the room. Bella heard someone whisper, “What the fuck…” When she looked to her side, she saw Edward rolling his eyes in slight annoyance.
“Sorry,” Sam said to Jasper as everyone quieted down. “Continue.”
“As I was saying, Jane’s talent cannot truly harm you, but it can allow her to very easily keep you from defending yourself,” he went on. “It is a power that works on the mind and makes you feel excruciating pain all over your body. But even if it is only real to you, this kind of torture is enough to render you completely helpless. Therefore, it is very important nobody has to face Jane alone. She does have the disadvantage that she can only inflict this pain on one person at a time, and it takes some measure of concentration to do it. And then we have the advantage that Bella is with us. She will have to be concentrating specifically on Jane to try to keep her from going after anyone else because she is the only one capable of fighting her without help.”
Several people gave each other questioning looks. Jacob looked back at her again for a second and then asked, “Why Bella?”
“Ah. Bella is invulnerable to Jane‘s power,” Jasper explained, seeming surprised that what made Bella unique was unknown to them when he was so used to the idea. “Other vampires’ talents that manipulate or invade the mind in any way have no effect on her. Aro and Edward cannot see into her head at all.”
“Is that some special talent?” Embry asked. “We didn’t know she had anything like that…”
“No, not exactly,” he said, shaking his head. “It was the same even when she was still human. We do not really know how.” Jasper briskly took a couple steps to the left to stand right in front of the last portrait. “Now,” he said seriously. “Alec.”
Edward crossed his arms tightly like he was suddenly nervous. Bella started listening intently; she had been told that Alec was one of the most invaluable members of the Volturi guard, but she did not know just what he could do yet.
“We should not be surprised if we hardly ever even see Alec,” Jasper said. “At least you may not see him until you are in trouble. Apparently in battle he will often watch from far off, circling the area very fast, until he sees a good opportunity to sneak up right behind someone and strike. And I mean very fast. Alec can move at a speed so great that nobody will see him. He is able to do this so quietly even my ears will not hear him coming. Because of his small size he perhaps would be somewhat easy for some of us to fight without this ability, as he relies on surprising you. In fact, he will be much more dangerous to us than to all of you”—he looked at the pack—“because if he can sneak up behind me and get his teeth into me, it may not take much more to finish me off, but he won’t bite you. Remember how I said last time that what you need to worry the most about is not letting one get their arms around you. Well, at least Alec has some pretty small arms to work with in comparison to the vampires you are used to fighting.
“Alice and Edward will need to be focusing on going after Alec. Even though he is so fast, hopefully because they can always be a step ahead of him and know what he is thinking about doing, this will help them be able to get in his way. This is why I must stress how important it is to try as hard as you can not to let us all get separated too much. We want to keep this battle in as small and enclosed an area as possible. That way either Edward or Alice has a better chance of being able to get to you before he does.”
“Are you sure he wouldn’t get desperate enough that he’d just be willing to take a bite out of me?” Seth asked. “Their whole point in coming here is to take care of us, after all.”
“Yes. But they’ll want to have fun doing it, too,” Jasper said with a slight smirk. “Believe me. If I had to bite you I am sure it would taste so bad it would probably have a negative effect on my concentration and performance in a fight rather than help me kill you. And even if I just barely punctured one of you with my teeth, you would still be strong enough to come after me for a while so it would be quite useless.”
“Do other vampires actually taste that much better?” Leah asked, as if she felt offended.
“Oh, yes. Especially if they‘re full of a lot of fresh blood.” The light smirk on his face grew; he was clearly just trying to mess with them a little, and Bella giggled softly.
Seth made a gagging sound and Jared said, “Ugh. You want me to be sick?”
Now several people in the room, vampires and werewolves alike, were laughing a little, including Jacob. It felt a little strange, but after all, some relief from the intensity of thinking about all of this so seriously was pleasant. Jasper certainly always knew what he was doing with people’s emotions.
“Say, is anyone else ever going to lecture us on battle strategy besides you?” Quil asked him.
“Don’t like my teaching methods?” Jasper said lightly, gesturing to the pictures. “I cannot take credit for doing these drawings, by the way. If your life is saved because you are able to recognize and stay away from Jane, you have Bella to thank.”
Emmett put two fingers in his mouth and whistled to cheer for her. Then came some more giggling and lazy, brief applause from a couple people as everyone glanced behind them at her. She just rolled her eyes, feeling ridiculous.
“To answer your question,” Carlisle called to Quil, “Jasper has actually seen the way the Volturi attack groups from watching them do it from far away, quite a long time ago. And he is the best for planning what kind of strategy we will have to use to engage specific kinds of enemies because he has been in this kind of situation practically an innumerable amount of times.”
“What kind of situation? Fighting with wolves?”
Carlisle answered, “Warfare in general. And he is doing you a great favor.”
It might have sounded to them like he was unnecessarily rubbing it in, but the complete truth of the statement resounded in Bella’s mind.
As Jasper went on to briefly explain how many other vampires from the guard they could expect to show up and a few other things they should look out for, Edward turned to look at her. “We should tell Jacob about how Emily Uley could be at risk,” he reminded.
The momentary comfort she had fallen into tightened into the same uncertainty she had been in most of the day. She looked over at him briefly, and then back at Edward, opening her mouth but hesitating…and then closing it.
“Or…I could just speak with him,” Edward offered awkwardly.
Bella’s eyes widened just a little. God, no. That would be even worse. It would look like she really didn‘t want to have to talk to him.
She thought a moment. “Why don’t we just tell Sam?” she said.
He shrugged. “Alright. If you wish.”
Sam seemed to carefully avoid looking at her too much as they spoke, explaining their concerns about Emily and their baby. He talked to them politely, but with no warmth at all, as if this was some kind of formal setting. Bella supposed that was the most she could hope for.
As he was talking, Edward suddenly took Bella’s hand a little firmly, and even though the action did not seem to show any fear, she understood why; Jacob had come to stand close enough to hear what they were talking about, and without seeing him she knew from how much more noticeable his scent suddenly was. She was glad Edward just took her hand rather than holding her arm or her waist, which might call his attention to how careful he needed to be to watch her.
There was something so mortifying about it. Nothing like this ever could have come between them when they were both human. She didn’t want to talk to him when she couldn’t even do it without Edward also being right there. His reaction when Edward explained it to him had apparently been mild, but she was going a little crazy not knowing what he really thought of all this, and at the same time was scared to know.
“I will definitely be talking to Emily about this,” Sam said. “Thank you for letting me know. I never would have realized how that might put her in danger.”
“Do you think Emily will be willing to leave?” Bella asked, unable to help but let all of her fear for them show. “Even when you have to stay here and…?”
He shook his head, appearing to lose his composure for a moment. Then he looked at her face and he was very different from before, regarding her familiarly. “I don’t know. She’ll understand that it’s necessary. But it’ll be really difficult.”
“It doesn’t seem right that you should be separated while something like this is happening,” she said, shaking her head. “I know. But just remember—and tell her—that she and the baby are safest the farther she is away from you. As we said, Demetri will be able to hunt you down no matter what, but Edward can see just how he does that and he’s confident that Emily is safe from him.”
“But just in case, Bella and I have kept this between ourselves,” Edward said. “So there’s less of a chance of Aro finding out if he ever feels the need to try to touch any of us.”
Sam just nodded solemnly.
Bella could hardly imagine how this would be for both of them. Sam having to say goodbye to his wife—his soul mate, his other half—not knowing if it would be the last time he ever even saw her, and not even able to know where she would be hiding. Emily having to go far away from home at a time when this was where she would feel like she most needed to be, where she would know right away what happened to everyone after the night they were all dreading, and just having to wait for any word from her husband while completely alone and having to be afraid she and their baby would stay that way—alone.
She looked around and saw Jacob standing to the side of her on her left, the sad look on his face seeming to reflect these same worries. He found himself meeting eyes with her, caught off guard to notice her looking his way, but neither of them looked right away this time. As they held each other’s gazes for a moment, just sharing silent feelings, everything was completely different just for that brief time, the rest of the room disappearing. He was not looking at Bella Cullen then, not at the pale-faced and dangerously beautiful monster with eyes of a warm golden color who was a stranger to him, but just at her. At Bell.
And then came that pulling sensation again, the dull ache of never having that was almost so easy to ignore among all the powerful craving for his blood that it seemed to just blend in and become a part of it. But she recognized it more easily for what it was this time and looked away from him, feeling a burn of guilt.
Everyone had started talking in small groups, the vampires and werewolves completely separated, and they were obviously out of things that needed to be said to everyone for now. Carlisle went and spoke briefly to Jacob and Sam, letting them know when his family would be in the clearing every night the rest of the week if anyone from the pack wanted to come and see what they could learn from watching them practice engaging each other again.
When Bella went upstairs as they were getting ready to leave without a last word to anyone, Edward’s eyes followed her with a look of slight puzzlement. When he looked back away, he noticed Jacob standing still and staring up toward the stairs as well with a much darker expression. When he started to turn away and found Edward looking at him, he met eyes with him only a brief moment before he finished turning around to leave. But Edward went to him before he got far in a quick movement, stopping him by standing partially in his way.
"What is it?" he demanded in a low, frustrated voice. "What's the matter with her?"
Jacob only looked completely taken aback to be asked this, though in an instant his face changed to a more taunting expression. "Gee, I bet you really can't stand that you need to ask me what's on your wife's mind," he said.
"Why won't she talk to you? Why won't she even look at you?"
He looked a little wounded for a second to acknowledge it, but then just shrugged. "Maybe she doesn't want to talk to me. Or maybe she thinks I don't want her to."
"And why would that be? Did you say something that could have upset her?"
"What? How could I have when she hasn't been—?"
"I mean when you talked to her on the phone."
He looked at him a long moment, eyes burning. "No. Okay? You really think I'm going to...? You act almost like there's some reason I should be mad at her."
Edward started to answer, "Of course not, but I—" His face changed as he seemed to register something from Jacob's words. Perhaps he understood now.
There was, after all, something they had not bothered to tell the wolves about the Volturi's motivations. Something Bella took more seriously than the rest of them and probably would not have let go unmentioned if she had been present during their first meeting, but which was too late to admit to now unless she wanted to make the rest of her family look untrustworthy by comparison.
Edward shook his head quickly and said, "Never mind," leaving Jacob alone before he could notice that he seemed to be hiding something.
As soon as the pack was gone, Emmett sighed. “I need to hunt,” he announced. “Anybody coming?”
Most of the others were also hungry and agreed to join him, and then Edward said with some hesitation, “Yes, I suppose. Bella will not need to, but perhaps she might come anyway…”
They were speaking loudly enough for her to hear from upstairs, and he heard her call, “Go ahead, Edward. I’ll just stay.”
For a few seconds, he could not help but imagine her sitting in their room alone and thinking of a certain face. For those seconds it did not matter if it wasn't fair, if nothing was Jacob's fault, if he had not really been dealing with this by treating her with the kind of bitterness he had been imagining, if he was doing nothing to make this harder for her; he hated him, wanted him erased. Not to go away, but to have never been there in the first place.
And as he tried very hard not to think these thoughts as he left with the others, he realized the irony of it. For he was the one who created Jacob Black, who wrote him into the story. He was his mistake that he made the moment he left Bella alone in the forest years ago with nothing but echoes of him to hold onto. But now, no matter how much he wanted it, he could not make him disappear again.
She knew she shouldn't be here. She could only hope no one would find out.
Jacob's window was open and Bella crept inside his room as silent as air. He was sound asleep, his legs stretched out long so his feet went over the end of the bed a little. When she crouched on the bed next to him, her added weight on the mattress did not even make enough movement to disturb him. She just stayed perched over him, sitting next to his warmth and looking down at his calm face, having to make an effort every single second she remained this close to him to resist the way she felt so drawn to him. It was not something she would be able to do when there were any great distractions around her, anything else she needed to be thinking about or paying close attention to.
This was how she was going to get used to it. She couldn't let this be too much of a disturbance when the time came that they had to fight beside each other. She didn’t even know how much she would be able to desensitize herself to his scent in such a short time; after she and Edward met, it had been months before he had spent enough time around her to have much confidence in his ability to be close to her without putting her in serious danger. But maybe he was right that this should be a little easier for her than it was for him. After once thinking he had lost her, it had suddenly become remarkably easy for him to be more comfortable around her. She had already lost Jacob in one way, and now the possibility of losing him in another way was looming over her like a dark, building storm cloud. She could hardly bear to acknowledge it, denying the inevitable, that the rain and thunder would come.
As she had feared when she had the idea of coming over here while the others were still gone hunting, just sitting here with him in his room made her suddenly have nothing to do but confront certain thoughts she had been avoiding letting her mind settle on. Watching him like this made it impossible not to fully realize how completely different it was being around him than before.
She knew she was still in love with him. This she had known before she ever even saw him again; it was not anything she had ever expected to just fade away. But she had never wanted him like this before. When her family and the pack met it made her disturbingly nervous because she did not want Edward to know, but what was the most disturbing was that he did already know; he knew exactly what it was like. When he was close, everything in her universe gravitated toward the spot where he was and she forgot about everything else but him. Her husband practically vanished beside her.
And at the same time, his presence was distracting in a completely different way, because of everything that still hadn't changed at all. What did it all mean that a vampire sometimes had a particular attraction to one human like this? It was impossible for her even to describe to herself what exactly she felt around him anymore and make much sense of it. It was a hundred different things at once. His scent seemed almost like something she already knew, which even as it was like nothing she'd ever smelled before as a human carried with it things that cannot even really be smelled - the ocean breeze raising goosebumps on her skin at the beach, the loud roaring of a motorcycle, a warm hand taking hers in the dark garage, once upon a time, just once. All of it coming back to her more and more even though there could be no going back.
She couldn't decide if she would like to think this was precisely the same thing Edward had gone through while she was human or not. For the most part, she didn't want to think about it too much at all.
Jacob's breathing became less steady and calm and he stirred, rolling away from her and curling up a little like he suddenly felt a cold draft. Maybe he was having a bad dream. Maybe he really did feel cold with her sitting here. Maybe her presence, her scent and cold chill in his room, was causing the dream.
She moved from the bed and instead stood a few feet away from him, watching him in the shadows by the window. His breathing became deep and even again, and after a while he started to snore softly. She looked out the window at the moonlight-bathed trees, thinking for a long time.
They did not know how many from the guard would be coming, or which ones. It was going to be a dangerously close fight, if not uneven. As she stood in Jacob’s bedroom watching him sleep, everything here reminding her of an entire other world of things she held dear that she had left behind, it was very hard to feel the kind of reluctance she had felt before about having to fight the Volturi. Just earlier this night she had been thinking about Jane, who she would be the safest trying to attack, picturing her very young face with some horror. But all that did not matter. She did not have to like it. Nothing mattered as long as Jacob and his friends could be saved.
She remembered the trouble she was having mastering her powers, and worried more than ever that she might not be able to learn how to use them right. It felt oddly lonely having to keep it a secret from almost everyone.
When she looked back over at Jacob’s still, sleeping figure she could only think, Please let me figure this out.
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