Text Size Large SizeMedium SizeSmall Size    Color Scheme Black SchemeWhite SchemeGrey SchemePaper Scheme        

What Music They Make

Summary:
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.


Notes:


7. VI: Accelerando

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6767   Review this Chapter

chapter VI accelerando



Bella went back to Port Angeles early in the morning with some of the things Jasper had said at the meeting the night before echoing in her mind.

He had mentioned how she had always had a very closed and invulnerable mind, which she had not been thinking about. Quil had asked if this was some kind of special power she had that they didn’t know about. That wasn’t exactly how she had ever thought about it. But maybe it had something to do with what she was capable of.

All along she had been trying to deliberately use her powers with attempts to control others’ immediate actions, the movement of their bodies. But maybe she did not have the power to just bend people to her will like brainless puppets. Maybe it was something more subtle than that. Something having to do specifically with the mind…

She went to the same café. It was a good setting to try to practice in because most of the customers always seemed to be here to study or read and were therefore usually not paying attention to anyone but themselves. Holding a book open she was pretending to read again, Bella looked around the café and her eyes stopped on a man who had a cellphone, cup of coffee, and folder of papers he was looking over on his table.

She first decided she wanted to make him move his coffee cup. He might have to realize that it might be sitting too dangerously close to the edge of the table to do this. It wasn’t sitting that close to the edge at all, but just maybe…

This time, Bella thought about trying to control his mind. She concentrated on what she wanted him to think, what she needed to go through his mind for him to act. As the man turned the paper over he was currently looking at with the tip of his pen in his mouth, she finally focused on putting herself in his place, imagining herself thinking, as if she was laying the thought onto his mind, My cup looks like it might fall off if anybody bumps into the table.

He glanced down at the cup from the paper, reached down and pulled it closer to him.

After just another twenty minutes of sitting in there, Bella had also made the man pick up his phone thinking he had heard it ring when it hadn’t, made a woman sitting right next to her feel like she needed to use the bathroom, and made an employee at the counter make a cold chai for somebody who had ordered it hot. Finally she was getting somewhere.

The large clearing where the Cullens always came to play baseball was bathed in the light from a nearly full moon. As they waited for the pack, Jasper slowly paced back and forth playing with a silver lighter in his hand, flicking the top up and back down repetitively and making a clicking sound that started to disturb Bella after a while because it was somehow ominous echoing in the open silence. Her eyes kept being drawn to it when it shined and made it look like Jasper was holding the moonlight in his hand.

Some of them decided to go ahead and start practicing, and Bella gladly joined them right away to have something to do besides get bothered by the near complete silence. It was going to be different this time because they were dealing with much more intelligent, calculating adversaries. As they divided in pairs to try to simulate how they and the vampires of the Volturi guard would be engaging each other, they did not imitate the way newborns would go right for a direct attack, but used their heads exactly how they would in a fight, trying to fool and mislead each other.

Bella tried fighting with Edward first, but after just a short while it proved nearly impossible for this to be very productive. He could not put enough effort into trying to attack her for her to learn much from her attempts to avoid him getting to her. He seemed to be genuinely trying, but to just be incapable of behaving very aggressively toward her at all. It was as if after all the time she had been human and he had to be so careful with her, he just did not have it in his programming to be able to let loose doing something like this and know he wasn’t going to hurt her.

Alice eventually relieved them from this problem when she asked Edward to try with her a while, so Bella ended up paired with Jasper instead. This was when she decided to attempt something that she had not deliberately tried on anyone in her family yet. After just a few moments of them trying to charge toward each other and just barely missing, she started quickly concentrating on something just before she started to run toward him again: she thought of dodging her attack by moving quickly backwards and to the right a little, as if she were in Jasper’s head and standing in his place herself, visualizing it clearly as if she were doing it. As she went for him, at just the last moment before she reached him she moved the tiniest bit to his right, so that as he moved that way as well they collided straight together. To everyone else who did not know what else to assume, she knew it would merely look like she was watching him carefully and paying very close attention to his movements. Jasper reacted quickly, immediately throwing himself in the other direction of her, but she already had managed to get a hold on his wrist and he only dragged her along with him for a few feet until she practically climbed up onto him and got her face up by his neck, mouth open and teeth bared.

As Jasper stopped in place with a resigned sigh, Emmett laughed a little and said, “Come on, are you letting her win?”

“Oh yes, that would let her learn a lot,” he said sarcastically as Bella released him, and when he turned she saw that his smile looked quite pleased.

The next time they tried it together, she did nothing out of the ordinary. As long as the others were taking notice of how well she was doing, she didn’t want to make anyone wonder anything. Jasper got her after seven failed approaches. Then their third time, she was able to keep missing advances from him very easily for almost four minutes, as so many of the times she was the one putting the ideas of how he was going to do them in his head. Finally as she went after him, thinking of something quite different, she actually thought she saw the smallest smirk on his face as if he was a little amused by the thought of what he was going to try. Instead of avoiding her attack by rushing away from her in another direction, he stood still until she was very close and then leaped right toward her, going down toward her feet. He was trying to catch her by surprise by knocking into her and trip her; it was something she had actually seen him successfully do before when fighting with Edward.

But she was expecting this. The split second they were within five feet of each other, she saw his eyes look down right before he was going to do it and abruptly stopped right where she was. Some of the others who had stopped fighting themselves to watch actually made sounds of surprise, hardly able to tell what happened; in an instant she had dived right down to the ground after him and had him pinned down, her teeth ready at the back of his neck.

She let him get up and they stood facing each other once again. He looked just about dauntedly impressed now. “Not bad. But I would not suggest you ever try that, by the way,” he added with a grin, nodding down to the ground to show he was talking about the last move he had tried and failed. “If you miss it puts you in a really vulnerable position. You don’t want to put your back to anybody.”

She laughed. “I think I got that idea.”

Emmett was still watching them and he also laughed. When she then looked over at the others and met eyes with Edward, she saw that his face seemed to be carefully frozen, although it held an unmistakable hint of hesitant relief. He seemed to be taking care not to be too happy about it if she appeared to be able to handle this well. Perhaps he did not want her to have too much confidence. She knew he still would prefer it if she were incapable of being part of this at all and had to sit safely on the sidelines.

At this moment, a lot of them started to turn their attention to a part of the forest far off to Bella’s left, from which they could now make out the sounds of some very large creatures approaching. She watched as four wolves appeared out of the shadows of the trees which she could recognize as Jacob, Embry, Sam, and Seth. As soon as they had come close, Bella and the others split into new pairs to start practicing again and just went on with what they had been doing before, although now as Jasper fought with Carlisle he stopped every once in a while to mention any pointers he thought of to give the wolves.

After a while, Bella and Edward had both stopped and were taking a break to watch what Jasper and Carlisle were doing. It wasn’t long before she noticed the very familiar scent getting closer and then saw the reddish brown wolf approaching the place she and Edward stood. As she watched him come, Jacob slowed within about fifteen feet of her and then stopped where he was as if he felt unsure.

She looked questioningly to her side at Edward, but he was already looking over at Jacob. “Yes, come on then,” he said a little impatiently, motioning for him to come over. “You should be fine.” He looked down at Bella and explained in a lower voice, “He needs to smell you. All of them will be needing to at some point.”

“Smell me?” she asked.

“Yes. Remember? The last time we got to have this much fun together, the pack made sure they familiarized themselves with all of our scents so that there would be no accidents during the fight. But obviously none of them are yet used to how you smell now.”

“Oh…Right.”

Jacob had now come before them, stopping a few steps away from where Bella was. She looked up at where his massive head was peering down at her, holding her hands into fists in preparation for how much restraint this was going to take.

Edward looked at her again, having just heard something in Jacob‘s head. “He asks if it still makes you uncomfortable being near him in this form,” he said.

She looked into his great yellow eyes with a dry smirk. “Yeah, it’s not really any different,” she answered.

As she started to take slow steps toward him, Edward followed her for just one stride and then stayed a few feet back behind her as she stood right in from of him. Bella slowly extended her hand before him, and then Jacob leaned his head down and took in a big, loud whiff of the air right above her arm. Then he made a short, gruff noise that sounded almost like a sneeze, and she was quite sure she was able to interpret the meaning even without Edward’s help.

“Yeah, I know,” she said with a slight air of annoyance. “We can’t all smell as great as you around here.”

Jacob’s massive throat rumbled loudly with that kind of dog laugh she remembered well.

He had asked if it still bothered her being around him when he was like this and she knew what he had really meant, but ironically she could not help but be reminded now of something he used to say about what form she seemed to find it easier for him to be in around her. Even though the large eyes looking at her now were much too intelligent-looking and expressive for ones belonging to a real wolf, it was not quite as difficult as looking at Jacob’s real face. They did not show that same barely perceptible shadow of pain she always noticed his eyes carried now, something someone might never even be able to notice looking at him unless they had actually known him before everything changed. Something she, who had at one time lived for that easy smile of his—the face of my Jacob my sun my —found impossible to miss.

Rather than lowering her arm then, Bella started to raise it higher toward his nose, very slowly as if to give him the chance to object. Then she touched the top of his snout and started running her hand lightly up and down his fur.

“There,” she said quietly. “This isn’t so hard.”

A moment later Edward looked up at Jacob with a groan of distaste and asked, “You really think that is funny?”

She looked behind her at him. “What?” she asked. “What did he say?”

He rolled his eyes a little and explained, “He said, ‘Now the next time you really need to hunt you can say you’re so hungry you could drain a whole wolf.’ And now he is telling me he can joke about the possibility of his death if he wants to. Yes, fine, dog,” he said, looking right up at Jacob, “but then do not blame me if I actually laugh.”

As Bella looked back at him, she said, “That really isn’t funny, Jacob,” though she had already started giggling a little. As she kept petting him gently, trying not to end up leaving too much of her scent on him that smelled so unpleasant to him, she stared up at his enormous shape in thought. If any vampire actually tried to attack a werewolf in this form to drink its blood, they would probably just end up getting themselves killed. She was inclined to agree with Rosalie that this whole thing was much stranger than anything else imaginable.

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” she said to him, talking in a low voice again. “I’m sure I wouldn’t even be able to drink as much blood as you’ve got like this without exploding, but it’s still the same blood. It’s really pretty amazing…You can just expand into this much huger and completely different thing in only a second, but underneath it you’re still exactly the same person.”

She took her hand away from him, starting to feel that she had tested her self-control by being this close to him long enough. Just then Edward, who had his back to them because he had started watching the others fighting again, asked, “Would you like me to tell her about this now? As long as you‘re thinking about it…”

Bella looked to the side toward him just as he heard Jacob think his answer and said, “Alright.” Clearly speaking for him now, he went on, “Sam spoke to Emily about everything and she agreed it’s best that she leave. She will be going away on Friday morning.”

She looked back at Jacob and nodded after a moment of taking that in. “Well, it’s a bit of a relief to know that’ll be taken care of, at least,” she said. After hesitating for a while, not looking directly at his eyes, she said, “Do you think you could tell Emily for me, before she leaves…?” She sighed, dropping her hands she had been holding together a little uncomfortably to her sides. “I don’t know what I want to tell her. Can you just say I’m really sorry about all of this?”

With his back still facing her, Edward said his reply: “Sure. But it’s not like it’s your fault.”

Her eyes immediately dropped from his face again. She found herself unable to look back at him or say anything more before she turned away and walked directly away from him, moving rather quickly.

She was very conscious of every part of her body gradually relaxing as she left him, untightening until she felt like a marionette that had just been released and dropped to the floor. But even as it was a relief to get far away from him again, as she went out into the surrounding area where the stink of all the other wolves was noticeable again and the air seemed less clean to her, it felt almost like stepping outside of a familiar and safe home.

There was snow.

Aro floated through it like a ghost, gliding so gracefully he barely left a trail in the white that was stained with red in so many places. He was as pale as the paper Jacob had seen his face drawn on, just a general impression of what he would really look like. Jacob saw this even though he was not really here. There were no wolves here. Not standing.

Edward was sinking weakly to his knees, his face looking like it had been wiped away. Before him was scattered what looked like the pieces of a broken ivory sculpture. Jacob saw this only as eyes in the trees, above them in the sky. He could not turn away.

The Volturi were leaving. Aro passed Edward and looked down at the broken-off limbs in front of him. "Make sure you take care of this," he said in a voice of authority, kicking a dismembered arm forward a little to pile it over a leg.

Edward looked up at him and stared like he was looking through a clear window, at nothing near. The words did not seem to have meant anything to him.

"Here." Aro threw out a lighter to him and it landed in the snow.

Snow. It was July. This could not be real.

He saw something closer: the arm that was now lying over another limb, with something silver around the wrist. A linked metal bracelet, from which hung over the white skin a tiny red-brown wolf carved out of wood.

And closer, there was more, worse. A torso, mutilated into a shape that was all wrong. A head, and face -

This could not be real.

Carlisle was beside Edward now. He picked up the lighter and said somberly, "I'll do it."

She was piled together and she burned. The air filled with a charred, intensified ghost of her scent. There was something about the smell that seemed familiar to him, like when the smell of an unidentified decomposing food still contains a trace of you-don't-know-what, something you know you have tasted. Sour berries, powdered sugar that is sweet at first from far away but burns your nose and makes you cough when closer and inhaled.

And the face in the fire. The face...

Jacob woke up with a start, heart pounding, and after his eyes opened to the dark he immediately had the strange feeling that he wasn‘t alone. He bolted up in bed and looked around the room, but he found it empty. Then the rollercoaster threw him out, the sickening movements finally having their effect now that it had all stopped, and he clutched his stomach, feeling the wrenching in his insides. He fell sloppily out of bed and onto his feet with images from the dream still running together in a red and white blur, sure he was about to be sick. But just as soon as he had stood up and his eyes started adjusting to the dark and seeing everything tangible and real in front of him, the feeling started to pass. He ran a hand across his lightly sweating forehead and cursed in a whisper. He was never going to catch up on all the sleep he was losing lately if he was having the freakiest nightmares.

Suddenly he froze in the middle of scratching his head, hairs raising on the back of his neck in a shiver. That scent. Hers. It was real. It was still here.

He had thought he smelled something like it somewhere in his room the morning before, but assumed he was imagining it. There was no way. But now he wondered...

Something he had thought he felt the moment he woke up. He went over to the bed and - yes. It smelled stronger here. He ran his hand across it, over the top of the blankets. There near one edge of the mattress, opposite from the very warm side where he had been sleeping, was a spot that was as cold as the seat of a car in the winter.

His eyes slowly got large, and then he rushed over to the wide open window and looked out of it into the night, even though he already knew there was no chance he would see anything. It was a still, quiet night with no wind, and nothing in sight moved.

Sighing softly, he turned back around and looked at his bed a moment. He felt completely alert now and knew there was no chance he would be able to get back to sleep. As he turned on the light and started to get dressed, he thought of how it was going to be really hard to keep from thinking about this the next time he and any of the others phased.

When Bella came home just as the sun was starting to come up, she found Edward sitting at his piano but not playing anything, as if he had stopped and just stayed sitting on the bench for a while, with Esme standing by him. If they had been talking, they stopped when they heard her coming. Esme just looked back and forth between them for a brief moment and then left the room as if she knew Edward had something to say to her.

Bella held her hands together in front of her, just standing and looking at him. “Hi,” she said.

“Good morning,” he said with a delicate smile.

And she just looked at him passively and waited. She had known this was probably coming.

“Where do you go all this time you are away?” he finally asked.

She supposed Charlie’s house would not be a good enough explanation for all this time. Besides sneaking past the boundary line at night, there were all the hours she had spent going away to places she could practice trying to use her powers.

But it wasn’t as if she was that willing to even try to lie to him. After a long moment’s hesitation she just answered, “I’m sorry to be so secretive. I just have to get myself prepared for this in my own way.”

He looked at her a long time, observing her closely, his face only looking gentle. Finally he nodded and smiled a little again. “You are like a complete mystery to me lately,” he said.

“You mean more than usual?” she asked with a slight grin.

“Yes,” he said in an affectionate tone. “But in a more concerning than fascinating way. I just worry that…Well. I worry that I should be worried.”

She shook her head. “Don’t be worried.”

He stood up and approached her, running his fingers back through her hair. “You know there isn’t anything you ever need to beafraid to tell me, right?”

She nodded mechanically. “Yes.”

He started to turn away, lowering his hand from her face, but she took it and said, “Come here.”

As he held her, her face looked past him where he couldn’t see and turned sad, and she realized all at once how much she hated this. She never would have thought she could feel so alone in his arms. There were things she could not share with him, things he had no idea about. And other things she just could not bring herself to be honest with him about because it would do no good to talk about them and there was nothing he could do about them anyway. She had always known him as her angel who could make all of the darkness go away, who could do anything, as it had seemed when she was human and so helpless compared to him. But suddenly there were all of these things he could not make better. She hated it.

The days seemed to pass with unmerciful speed, every night spent gathering in the clearing with some of the wolves again. On Thursday, Bella took advantage of the brief time Edward and Carlisle had gone somewhere by trying to fight with Alice in the back yard. Alice had to be so careful not to think about what she knew Bella could do when he was there that it would be too risky for them to try this while he was home.

Now that Bella had a much better understanding of her abilities, she had started to suspect that they might be a lot less effective on someone who was actually aware that she had them. It was perhaps even more important than she had realized that they be kept a secret. As she and Alice fought together and she tried to use her powers on her, it quickly became clear that she had been right. Sometimes she was still able to fool Alice into following the sudden inclinations that had not really come from her own head because fighting involved such quick and spontaneous thinking anyway, but just as often she would be concentrating too hard on thinking twice about every move she made and the second’s hesitation she took would be enough for the thought that wasn’t really hers to pass so she couldn’t be bent to Bella’s will.

Alice knew when they needed to stop because Edward would be getting back soon, but when he saw them coming inside shortly after him and asked where they had been, she told him casually what they had been doing.

“Don’t tell me Bella actually stands a chance against you,” he said with a laugh, looking surprised to hear it. “I thought Jasper was impressive.”

“Oh, no,” Alice answered. “I had to be really careful not to just see what she was going to do the whole time or else it would have been useless for her. Not really easy, though. For me that’s like walking around trying to keep my eyes closed when I know I could bump into something.”

Edward laughed lightly, but Bella thought she saw something serious in his eyes.

Later, in an attempt to appear that she was fine, she sat in the bedroom reading a book. But as soon as Edward entered the room and came near her, throwing his wallet on the table and setting down some CDs he had just brought in from his car, he could tell at once that her eyes peering down at a page were not really moving across the words at all.

“Bella,” he said softly, making her look up. “It is scaring me how hard you are trying.”

His surprised, perhaps disturbed reaction after hearing that she had been fighting Alice made more sense now. She looked back down at her book, trying to keep her face natural. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

He sat down next to her, looking closely at her face. "I see what's going on. Please. You have to stop blaming yourself."

She was silent a long moment, still staring down vacantly at the page she was on. Finally she said, "We should have told them about the real reason for all of this."

"We did tell them the real reason," Edward said insistently.

She snapped the book shut and finally looked back up at him. "Whether it really matters so much or not...I feel like a total coward keeping it from them. I am a coward."

"Then just tell one of them," he said. “If you think it is so important. Then he can tell you how ridiculous you are for feeling responsible when you had no idea this ever could have happened.”

She shifted her gaze down from his, playing with the corner of her book in her lap. She shook her head. "I don't know if he wants to talk to me," she said quietly. "And even if he does I don't deserve it. If I can't even admit to this…And I…can‘t.”

"Stop punishing yourself,” he said. “I think you just feel too guilty about a lot more than that when you see him."

For a second she seemed to be holding her mouth together very tight, and she said nothing to that.

"Listen...I understand it isn't easy to think about this," he began carefully, "but you know anything could happen on Saturday night. These last days you have...Do you not see how important they are? I don't want to see you have regrets later that you never..."

As he had started trying to say it she had started shaking her head, and now the movement became quick and frantic. "I can't talk about this," she said stiffly with almost a note of panic in her voice. "I really can't."

"Bella, I am begging you to listen to me and think about this,” he said, taking her arm until she turned her face to him. “If only you could hear the things he thinks about you—It is ridiculous. He does not seem to trust that he knows you anymore. He doesn't really know what to think of you anymore, how to feel about seeing you. He has known nothing new about you since meeting you again except that you are strongly inclined to kill him if you get too close to him. At first it made me angry at him. I thought it was just his hatred for our kind making him feel so alienated from you. But of course he doesn't know what to think if you will barely even speak to him."

"Edward," she said heavily, her voice now imploring. "It doesn't matter! I've already said goodbye to Jacob. It was hard enough to do once. We belong to completely different worlds now. We may still be friends, by some messed up definition, but not like we were before. I would rather he just remember the way everything was."

After he looked at her a little sadly a long time, saying nothing more, she grabbed her book off the couch beside her again and opened it back up, meaning to really try to read it this time in an attempt to not think about any of these things he wanted her to. He finally just touched her shoulder a moment before standing up and leaving her alone again.

Jacob was on his break at work and sitting at a table with his feet up on the opposite chair, just staring off into space in thought, when someone hit him on the arm with a rolled-up newspaper to get his attention. Lilah was pulling out a chair and sitting down behind him.

She leaned over toward him and said quietly, “Check out this guy.” She nodded her head in the direction of where the pool tables were; the only one being used was where a middle-aged man seemed to be shooting a game by himself. “I’ve never noticed him before, but Scott says he comes in here all the time. He always practices shooting pool alone for about an hour. He brings in his own really fancy cue to use. But he sucks. It’s so sad to watch…”

They both watched for a while as he very carefully took about eight seconds to get ready for a shot as if he was almost blind, only for his cue to slip right past the white ball and not touch it once he tried. Lilah snorted, covering her mouth to contain herself.

“But it’s so funny,” she said. “Poor bastard.”

Jacob did not realize he should be laughing until she then went silent and looked straight at his face. It was too late—she would see now he was in no mood. But he still tried to react properly, smiling and saying, “Yeah. Even you can do better than that.”

This earned him a second, more hostile slap with her newspaper, and then he managed to laugh a little.

“So what’s up?” she said and she started unrolling and unfolding it. “You haven’t even told me what you’re doing this weekend that’s so important.”

“A couple friends of mine from out of town will be here,” he answered easily, having thought up his story a long time ago. “So I wanted to be free.”

“Ah,” she said. “I guess that’s worth forsaking my weekend off. And I need the hours, anyway. But I think you still got to do something to make it up to me.”

“I’ll let you win next time we play pool,” he said.

“Shut up,” she muttered.

For a while he went silent, staring into the air again like he had been doing before she came and started talking to him.

“You’re kind of…subdued lately,” Lilah observed, seeming unsure about what word to use to describe it as she was already used to him not always acting quite normal. “Something on your mind?”

He shrugged. “No. I’m just tired.”

She accepted that answer, going quiet as well as she started reading something in the paper. But then he went on to say, “Lilah, what would you do if you were in love with two people at the same time?”

She looked up at him like this was the last thing she ever would have expected to hear next, and gave a short laugh. “God, isn’t one person enough trouble?”

“Apparently not for some people.”

“Okay, who are we talking about?”

He couldn’t believe he had started this, but now he supposed he could make her buy it. “One of these friends of mine,” he said. “It‘s a long story.”

She laughed again. “Well, I guess you just have to figure out which one is more important to you if you love two people.”

“But what if you know that neither of them is harder for you to be without than the other? Should any relationship actually involve the kind of sacrifice it would be to have to choose one in that case? It seems to me that could make everything between you messed up, with one person giving so much and the other one just getting.”

She shrugged. “Shit, I don’t know. That’s why most of the time I don’t try to stick to just one person.” She gave a short laugh. “Hm…I guess you’d just have to hope whichever person you stay with will come to mean more to you so it wouldn’t be such a loss anymore to give up the other.”

He sighed. In some ways it was the exact opposite of what he needed to hear. Though he wasn‘t even sure what he wanted to hear, or what had made him start wondering about this. “Well, it doesn‘t matter. He‘s pretty much picked who he wants to be with anyway.”

“Then why are you thinking so much about it?”

He shook his head, crossing his arms and staring away thoughtfully. “I was just wondering…if the situation was different…what the hell could have been done.”

She finished reading the article she had been looking at in the paper and then leaned back in the chair, yawning widely. “You have a dollar bill?” she asked him. “I want to play something good on the box.”

He shook his head, smiling. “You need more hours so bad, yet it’s unbelievable how much money you must put in that juke box every week.”

“Come on. You look like you could use some B-52’s.”

He had already started digging in his pocket for a dollar. When he found one and held it out to her, he waited until she reached for it and then pulled it back away. “For the love of God…the Doors?“

She smirked. “Well, okay,“ she said, and then took the dollar.

Where he was standing behind the bar, their supervisor Scott called, “Lilah, I know we’re not busy, but you’ve been off the clock too long.”

“I know, I know,” she said quickly as she practically bounced over to the juke box. “Just give me a second.”

Jacob grinned a little as he watched her go over there, but as he kept looking at her his smile sunk. They were alike in a lot of ways. It was easy to forget when with her that Lilah wasn’t exactly normal. She had already been through things most people her age couldn’t even fathom, lived through needing money so badly she would have done crazy things and been treated like dirt by people. But she didn’t let it show. And it was sometimes easy to forget when with her that he wasn’t normal either. Even if it was like a breath of fresh air at the moment after what he had been dealing with the past few days, ultimately that couldn’t be good for either of them.

It was Friday. His last times going in to work this week had all gone by very fast. Later that night as he drove Lilah home, he felt like there must be something to say to her. But she spent half the ride on the phone ordering Chinese for when she got home.

“…Right, a small one. And hold on,” she said, putting her phone away from her ear a second and tapping Jacob‘s shoulder. “Do you want anything?”

He glanced away from the road at her with his brow raised. “Oh—No, I won‘t be staying around.”

She nodded and then raised the phone back to her ear. She was finishing the call and about to hang up just as he pulled up to her building.

“Can’t come up for a while?” she said after he stopped the car.

He shook his head, looking as tired as ever now. “I got to get home soon,” he said.

She stayed still in the seat, just looking at him for a moment like she was trying to see something that must be there. “You really doing okay? I haven’t been seeing much of you.”

He nodded even though he knew he might not be very convincing. “Yeah…I guess it’s just been kind of a rough week.”

She leaned over toward him and ran a finger under his jaw. “All the more reason to come in,” she said, smiling up at him.

He laughed lightly and then actually hesitated to answer. “No,” he said finally, shaking his head again. “Can't tonight.”

She shrugged and then sat back up straight. “Alright. Thanks for the ride then, as always,” she said, slapping his leg lightly before turning to open the door. But he stopped her for a moment by taking her wrist, with just his thumb touching the soft inside of her palm, not quite holding her hand.

He looked right at her face as he said, “Take care, Lilah.”

He released her wrist and then she stared at him with a strange look for a moment, obviously realizing how much more serious it had seemed to sound than when he usually said goodbye for the night. But he just smiled casually and then turned his face forward, putting his hands on the wheel.

“Sure,” she said. “See you.”

As he always did when just dropping her off, he waited until she had made it inside before driving away. She never turned around and waved before going in. He would usually turn up the radio once he was alone in the car and mess with the dials, finding a station he wanted, and wait to see out of the corner of his eye the light spilling out from the door when she went inside and then shrinking to darkness again. He never followed her the whole way with his eyes, watching her go as if there was something to see. But tonight was different and he did. He might never have recognized her silhouette, the way she appeared for a second as a small form in the doorway.

Bella stood alone in Carlisle’s dark office, staring at an old framed picture on the wall.

It had been raining hard earlier so all of the windows in Jacob’s house were shut, stifling the night and making the whole house very quiet. Before he was going to get into bed, he stopped and looked over at his bedroom window. He went in front of it and stood staring out of it for a long moment, tapping his fingers on the ledge in deep thought. He thought of freezing cold snow that had felt so real, the smell of pale white winter and sight of wet crimson splattered against it, and of shutting the nightmares out. Of letting them in only for them to become real…

He opened the window in a fast, somewhat frustrated way as if to get it over with before he changed his mind. It wouldn’t have been able to keep her out anyway.