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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:


9. VIII: Requiem

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6654   Review this Chapter

chapter VIII requiem



The sky started filling with echoes of distant howls that sounded like despaired crying. Bella looked around, listening carefully and starting to look very perplexed. It seemed all the other sounds she had been able to hear from far away before were dying down.

She walked back over to Jacob and kneeled by him. He spoke before she could say anything.

“I guess you’ve been keeping a lot from us,” he said, attempting to use a light tone.

“What?” she said.

He looked over toward Jane’s dismembered remains, only briefly, like it bothered him to acknowledge them. “What did you do?”

She sighed. “Maybe I can...explain it to you later. I'm not sure if I should tell you yet.”

He said nothing to that. She shook her head a little, sighing again.

“I still can’t believe she actually bit you,” she said.

“I know,” he said tiredly, falling back to lie his head back down on the ground. “She was insane, that one. And they’re all really desperate to do me in. Sam, too. It wasn’t his fault, you know,” he made sure to say as he was thinking of him. “Jared was too busy with that female with the long hair and I thought I had a shot at Alec because I’d noticed Jane wasn’t with him anymore. I told him to leave me just for a minute because somebody had to help Paul—”

His words cut right off as if saying the name left him suddenly unable to speak, and Bella could see the pain registering sharply in him as he remembered. As his expression changed completely and he closed his eyes a moment, taking a quick and shuddering breath as if feeling a sudden physical sting, she felt an ache of sadness and impulsively put her hand to his face, gently brushing her thumb against his cheekbone and then smoothing some of his hair away from his warm, lightly sweating forehead.

When he opened his eyes again, they held a look of weakened endurance, and it was obvious to her he could not stand to say anything more about him. “Then later it was me with Jane all by myself,” he went on. “After just playing around for a while she finally started tearing me up and when Sam finally made it back to me he was able to take her by surprise and grab her from behind. I guess since she’d wasted a lot of time just torturing me for fun before she even got down to business she wasn’t about to give up on me and leave me alive, so she held onto me just long enough to sink her teeth in a second…It was…” He shook his head a little. “I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t even realize she’d done it until a minute later…Holy crap…”

He looked up at her face and found her starting to look away from him, part of her attention now on something else.

“What is it now?” Jacob asked her.

She slowly shook her head. “I don’t know. I'm sure I should probably be getting back out there now, but this is so strange. I don’t…hear anything.”

But just as soon as she said it, there came the faint calling of someone's voice far away.

"Bella!"

She looked back down at Jacob. "I don't get the feeling anybody else is going to come after you,” she said.

He shook his head, agreeing, and she stood up.

"Let me find out what's going on," she called back to him before disappearing into the shadows of the trees.

She had not run far before she heard a voice again. "Bella! Isabella Cullen!"

"Emmett?" she called. She looked in the direction his voice was coming from and could see him in the distance, turning in her direction after she called and seeing her.

"Oh, there you are, girl," he said with heavy relief.

Right away she said in a high voice, "Edward—is he—?"

He pointed to his left and a little bit behind him. When she looked that way, she saw a figure a little farther away just now becoming near and visible enough for her to recognize him.

Her breath fell out in a grateful sigh. She found she couldn't move at first. Then he saw her, too, and in an instant they were both running. When they met they collided together into an embrace so fast their bodies made a light crash. The moment was beyond any words like "Thank God," and instead of saying a thing at first they just held each other, grabbing each other's hair, breathing deeply.

"Could you tell what was happening?" she asked.

He stepped back to look down at her face and shook his head. "Right after you left he wandered just a little farther and then he was too out of range for me to be able to hear his thoughts the rest of the time. Good lord...The last thing I knew was that Janebit him..."

"He's okay now," she said in a suddenly awkward and removed voice.

"Yes," he said, glancing back in the direction she had come from, and then his face showed something new as if he had just spotted something very strange far away. As he was quiet a moment, Bella wondered what he was probably seeing Jacob remember now that he had come closer to him.

But then Edward sighed and said, “That isn’t very informative.”

“What?”

“Well, now Sam has found him and they are speaking of something completely different that happened. You will just have to give me the whole story later, I suppose. But—” He stopped a second, looking confused. “What is that?”

As he listened to something going through either Sam’s or Jacob’s head, he started looking a little shocked. He looked right down at Bella, who for some reason was starting to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable.

"You...killed Jane?" he asked.

She stared back at him a few seconds before nodding.

“Well,” he sighed. “Perhaps that begins to explain it."

"What?" she asked.

"They suddenly decided to retreat for now. Demetri and a couple others had finally managed to get me chased away from the rest of the fight by working together, so I never knew anything they were thinking before most of them were suddenly gone. They got out of there so fast I think that was intentional. But some of the others told me they saw Alec come back and have Aro touch him so he could tell him something right away. Immediately after that he made them all clear out except for one who he just ordered to stay behind to give us a message. They have something they unexpectedly need to discuss together and then they want to meet with us again at 8:00 tomorrow. Just us.”

“Not the pack?” she asked.

“Right. At our house.”

Bella shook her head, completely bewildered. Edward stroked his fingers against her face with a sorry look. “You look awful, love,” he said.

“I feel awful,” she sighed. “Do you think…Could this be good?”

He shrugged. “It could be good and it could be bad. I haven't even had the chance to ask Alice if she has seen anything useful yet.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Bella said urgently, and she walked past him to start to run back.

“Bella, wait!” Edward took her arm and stopped her, and then started going with her at a more moderate pace. “You had better be careful. Some of the wolves do not quite understand that Jacob is safe. They…did not really know what to make of the last thing they saw of him through Sam’s eyes.”

“…Oh,” she said in a dull, careless tone after she realized what he was trying to warn her about.

As she started trying to walk very quickly, Edward once again seemed nervous and ran to catch up with her. “There is something else. Please, just let me tell you—“

But she found out soon enough, ungracefully coming to a sudden stop once she was not far from the edge of the clearing and saw something off to her left that made her feel too weak to move.

An enormous mass of light tan fur lay in a profusely spread puddle of blood. The stench was sickening. Seth‘s eyes were closed and he was completely motionless. His body somehow looked bizarre lying there, abnormally long, and as her eyes took in the entire sight in more detail it only got more horrific as she realized the body was ripped apart into two completely separate pieces.

She whipped back around, burying her face into Edward’s chest with a kind of contained scream she made in her throat without opening her mouth.

“Paul, too,” he said sadly as he wrapped his arms around her.

She nodded quickly. “I know…”

She couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t fair. After everything else…

Edward gently urged her on, and they walked out to the moonlit grass with his arm around her waist a little protectively.

Everyone from the pack had changed back from wolves and were gathered close together. As they approached, some of them immediately fixed their eyes on Bella with dark, disgusted looks.

Brady crossed his arms, burning her with his gaze. “I guess Paul was right about her,” he said bitterly.

“Shut up,” Embry said in an exhausted, slightly raspy voice as he wiped one of his eyes. “You know Jake’s fine now.”

“So he says,” Collin said, looking at Edward.

“Knock it off,” said Sam tiredly, just now walking back to the group with his eyes looking very bloodshot. “I just talked to him. He’d be completely hosed if she hadn’t been there.”

“Then where is he?” Brady asked.

“Getting better,” he answered. “He can’t walk again yet and he feels too dizzy to stand up anyway.”

Bella saw that Jared was the only one actually crying right now, containing quiet, occasional sobs as he rocked back and forth on his heels kneeling on the ground, Embry sitting next to him with one hand strongly holding his shoulder. Even as the others held themselves together, there was something completely wrong behind the tone all of them spoke with. It seemed to take visible effort for the ones who were standing now not to just collapse. As Sam kept talking quietly to Quil it was with a vacant, almost careless voice. Others were saying absolutely nothing, looking almost completely unaware of their surroundings at the moment.

Leah was sitting down cross-legged and hunched over, somehow looking a lot smaller than usual. Her left arm might have been broken, for she was holding it in against herself, gently supported with her other arm, and it was shaking a little like it hurt. Bella felt an unbearable weight of remorse as she looked at her face, but at the same time it was impossible to look away. She seemed to be holding back pain and rage that was beyond tears or any adequate kind of outward expression, her mouth held together in a tight, straight line and all of her features looking as hard as steel.

She and Edward both could not help but watch her as Carlisle approached her and leaned over a little to say something. “Would you like me to look at that?” he asked, nodding toward her arm.

She did not seem to have heard him talk to her. She did not even look up at his face.

As if she just might need him to further explain, he added, “Just so I can check to see that it appears to be healing right.”

Leah just kept staring at a far-off point in the distance, but for a second her face looked a little aggressive. “Don’t touch me,” she said quietly.

Carlisle frowned passively and stood up straight again. He exchanged a regretful look with Edward when they met eyes, and then he walked over to where Esme, Alice, and Jasper were. Edward and Bella followed.

Alice was shaking her head and telling the others, “I don’t see anything. They obviously have a lot to weigh before they even come close to a decision, whatever it’s about.”

“Jane is dead, you know,” Edward said seriously.

They all looked at him with shocked expressions. Clearly, nobody else had realized. Emmett and Rosalie, who had been near but not standing as part of the group, walked right over to join them when they heard him say that.

“It seems to be the reason they retreated,” Edward continued.

“Way to go,” Emmett said to him half-enthusiastically.

He shook his head. “It wasn’t me,” he said, and lowered his eyes meaningfully down at Bella’s head for a moment.

“Oh…” Emmett, along with the others, just looked a little awed.

“So either we have actually managed to scare the Volturi a little,” Carlisle said in a bewildered tone, “or we have just made them very mad.”

Bella’s face became worried. “Should I…not have done it? I really had to—”

Edward actually laughed a little. “Please. Do not be absurd.”

Sam came over to them, looking very troubled and seeming to struggle to figure out how to say what he had to. “I don’t know what…We have to do something about the…about Seth and Paul.”

It sounded hard enough to say as it was, and Bella realized he could not manage to make any references to their “bodies.”

“Yes. We can take care of that for you,” Carlisle offered. "If you wish.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”

As he turned back away, Jasper said, “I suppose we have two vampires to get rid of, too.”

Edward nodded; Gianna’s body parts were still scattered in the middle of the open area. Before he was about to say something else, Bella interrupted him.

“Someone let me use their lighter,” she said.

Some of them looked over at her a little strangely, as if she had seemed too eager to do it.

“What?” she said uncomfortably, trying to use a dryly humorous tone. “I killed my first vampire. I guess it makes sense I should be the one to finish the whole job.”

The dark, dead-sounding voice she was using made Edward look at her with his eyes full of concern. But he did not say anything before finally reaching into his pocket to take out the lighter he had brought and handing it to her.

She smoothed some of her fingers over the top of it, turning it in her hand as she thought. “I think I should go to him,” she said to Edward when she finally looked back up at his face. “I said…I was going to tell him something. But you shouldn’t bother waiting for me. I‘ll just come home as soon as I can.”

He looked at her closely for a long moment. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” he asked in a careful tone.

When she realized what he was asking, she nodded. “After what I just had to do, I think it should be pretty easy being around him now.”

“…Alright,” Edward said, almost in a sigh. Then he leaned over to kiss her. He held it a long time, wrapping his arms firmly around her waist. Then he pulled away and said quietly, “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she said back.

As Bella walked away from where most of her family was standing together, she stopped as she noticed Leah again, watching her once more. Her arm appeared to be fine now and she was sitting completely still. As Bella watched, her brow creased together a little and her lips started to tremble as they stayed shut tight together. Almost imperceptibly, her breath began to quicken just a little.

Bella noticed that Sam was staring at her from behind. He seemed to be the only other person in the pack who acknowledged her now at all. He slowly, carefully started approaching her with quiet steps, coming to stand on the left of her but stopping still a foot back away. Bella saw Leah’s eyes flicker to the side for a brief moment, long enough to spot his legs out of the corner of her eye and maybe realize who was standing there. At first it seemed Sam was not going to do anything. Then he lowered his hand down to her, stopping and hesitating a second when he was an inch from touching her, and then reached toward her head.

She moved so fast when his fingers barely touched her hair it was as if they had burned and made her flinch away. The minute she felt the delicate touch at the back of her head, just the cautious start of whatever attempted gesture of comfort he had meant it to be, she darted forward, sprung right up onto her feet and ran, ran, her legs and arms moving with a sudden passionate anger. And then a moment later she leaped forward and instantly exploded into the gray wolf, running off and escaping everything behind her much faster and leaving ruined shreds of white fabric flying behind her and falling to the ground almost like flakes of snow.

Bella was unable to move or look away from the direction she had seen Leah disappear in for a long time, feeling like the entire world was now too much to bear, all heavy weight crushing her under it. It was not fair. It was so completely without reason.

But it had cause. This was the thought that had her so paralyzed for a moment.

Four years ago. Edward lying on top of her and softly kissing her neck before he was going to finally do it, Bella feeling terrified and excited at the same time but safe with him as she grabbed tight handfuls of his shirt on his back to prepare herself. Goodbye. Life thrown away like it was nothing. Life thrown away...

She did not find that Sam had been staring off in the same direction until he moved, almost walking past her toward the few other vampires who had not left to go home yet before he stopped and looked at her, seeming to just then notice her there.

When Bella turned her head to look at him he asked weakly, “Do you have a phone on you?”

When Bella came back to him, Jacob had moved a little from where he had been before so he was no longer soaking in his own blood. He had gotten his pants on and was lying down with one of his hands covering part of his face, his knees bent up and resting together.

When she started gathering all the pieces of Jane’s body together into a pile, he rolled his head to the side to look at her, but it was a while before either of them spoke. When she had the whole pile burning, she stepped away and sat down near him. The fire filled the air with a thick, potently sweet scent like flowery incense, sending a thick stream of dark smoke into the sky where it joined the smoke from three other fires in the distance where the remains of another vampire and two werewolves were being burned.

“Emily sends her love to everyone,” she said. “Sam called her.”

He nodded. "Do you guys have any idea what this is about?" he asked. His voice sounded colorless and numb.

She shook her head. "It seems that them losing Jane has changed things."

“In a way that's bad for us or good for us?"

“It could be either. Maybe they're actually willing to give up now that they know we're…serious. Or maybe now that they know what they're up against they need to meet and talk a lot more about how to do this, and they're just going to be more aggressive with us now."

“…So I guess they must know what you can do now."

She was frozen a second and then she gave a long sigh. "Yes. I was meaning to stop Alec, too. But now he‘s told them everything and I‘m sure they will have figured it out. That's bad. It was lucky I was able to keep it a secret; even Edward doesn’t know anything about it. And I needed to have that. It won't work as easily on anybody who knows I can do it.”

“How exactly does it work?” he asked. “Can you make somebody do anything? Like it’s…mind control?”

She shrugged. “That makes it sound a lot more powerful than it is,” she said. “It’s more like I can make somebody think anything. I can literally make someone’s thoughts deceive them, or put a strong momentary inclination in their head. But part of their mind is always still their own, so usually I have to be subtle about it for it to work. It’s easy to use while fighting somebody because I can just keep planning their next moves and that involves really simple kinds of thoughts. But I’m sure I couldn’t make some random person I see inside a restaurant stand up and decide to go outside and jump off a bridge.” She started shaking her head, overtaken with a disturbing thought. “Jane, though…She seemed especially easy to manipulate. She was different from other people somehow.”

“Maybe because children have more impressionable minds,” Jacob suggested dryly.

She frowned, only more disturbed now. “That’s terrible…”

He looked at her a moment and then ran his hand along his ribs on his left side. Seeming to decide all the bones there were all finally restored right, he grunted tiredly as he took the effort to sit up and look more closely at her face. “You okay?” he asked.

As she kept thinking about it and shaking her head she was starting to look almost panicked. Her words then began to spill out almost much too fast for him to understand, hardly making sense anyway. "Jake, I couldn't—They were—I couldn't watch them torture and kill you. Jane. She was..."

His eyes opened wide with sudden shock. "Bella, I really don't think anybody's blaming you—"

“They'd gotten Paul," she went on as if she didn't even hear his words. "Alec. He killed Paul."

“Honey, I know," he said, his voice suddenly very quiet and scratching in his throat a little as his eyes became terribly sad.

"I was so angry. I—I wanted to hurt them. And I wish I didn't have to—now I wish—but when I was doing it I—enjoyed it. I enjoyed hurting them. And it was easy. I was so scared, but then it was so easy..."

"Okay. Bells..." He spoke very gently, naturally reaching toward her and smoothing his hand through her hair at the back of her head. "Calm down. You're just shaken up after all of that. It happens to the best of us."

She shook with a single, low laugh. "Oh, really?"

“Yeah. Quil would kill me if he knew I told you this, but he got pretty sick right after that fight with the newborns. Of course, that might have been because there was the extremely disgusting smell of burning vampire bits all over the place…”

She sighed loudly. Only Jacob would be able to feign a real sense of humor at a time like this.

“You don’t understand,” she went on, sounding more controlled now. “You don’t know…Edward told me once about Jane’s past. About how she and Alec were changed.”

He just regarded her patiently now. “They weren’t like you?” he asked.

Once she realized what he was asking, she shook her head quickly. “No! They didn’t choose to be turned into…Of course not.”

“I get the feeling, though, that they never would have been strongly opposed to the idea,” he said a little darkly.

“Well, they were kids.”

He shrugged, seeming to allow that.

"When they were humans, Aro had been paying attention to them for a while,” she explained, “because they seemed to show a lot of potential for being very powerful as vampires. I don’t know how exactly they were so gifted even as humans, but they must have been pretty extraordinary because they were accused of witchcraft and burned at stakes when they were just children. Aro had to save them and this was why he ended up having to turn them when they were still so young. Carlisle is sure that Jane must have felt nothing but intense hatred and anger in all the last moments of her human life as she burned, and this is why she turned into such a sadistic creature. Alec might have just felt unbelievably scared. That pain they were going through at the time they were turned was what gave them their talents. I just can’t imagine…if the kind of things you would feel while that was happening to you were still the most dominant emotions you had in your last moments as a human…if that was crystallized as an irremovable, prominent part of yourself for eternity…”

Jacob was just looking off into the air thoughtfully as he listened.

Bella drew her legs in against her and held her arms around her knees, her face turning a little angry. "I hated her,” she said with very real contempt. “The first time I met her I watched her hurt Edward like that just because she could. Because she thought it was fun. Even though she was never able to do that to me, I always found her absolutely terrifying. She was…horrible. And yet now that she’s dead…now that I killed her…I don’t know. She didn't ask for any of that to happen to her. I don’t know if underneath everything she was still just a child who had so much unthinkable harm done to her.”

He was quiet a while longer before he finally said something in response. “Well,” he said, “at least she’s not stuck that way anymore. God, I don’t know if I can think of a more messed up way to be than that. Never being able to even grow up, I mean…”

She nodded.

“And anyway, it’s not like there was anything else you could have done.”

“I know,” she said.

He let out a long, exhausted breath and lay back on the ground again. “I wish I could have talked to all my brothers,” he said. Then, as his face seemed to show him registering some kind of regret, perhaps from uttering just the word “brothers,” he started to look very troubled. “How bad was it for them? For…Leah?”

Bella did not know what to tell him. She could only shake her head sadly, and the look in her eyes seemed to tell him everything, because he then looked away from her.

Then, thinking of something a little different, she said, “A lot of them were kind of pissed at me.”

“What?” he said, managing to put enough of an emotional tone in his voice to sound confused.

“Well…I guess they just thought I saw you like that and stopped for a snack or something.”

Realizing what she meant, he slowly rolled his eyes.

“Or else maybe they just thought I was a little too eager to help you….”

“Die,” he finished quietly when she couldn’t seem to say it. He sighed slowly, and just the deep breath sounded like it took a lot out of him. “Don’t worry about them. I’m sure if you’d mentioned that you just took care of the pain machine they would have been a lot nicer.”

She gave a short, empty laugh.

Jacob was starting to look a little angry. “I really wish they wouldn’t be like that, though,” he said. “I know you guys don’t even have to be doing this.”

Her eyes started to go a little wide, as if the statement was too close to something she could not stand to acknowledge. “No,” she said quickly. “It’s not like that. I really don’t care…”

He only looked doubtful. “Yeah, I know Edward said all this bull about how you owe us for making it possible for everybody to survive that attack from the redhead’s army. But I know a lot of this…has to do with you.”

She started shaking her head, her eyes closed shamefully.

“What’s the matter with you?” He sat up to look directly at her once again, appearing completely puzzled. “Look, I just know that none of the other guys are ever going to suck it up and be able to actually say thanks to any of you, so I—”

“Oh no,” she moaned, bowing her face down with her hands in her hair, clawing at it a little madly. “Oh, Jacob, if you knew…”

And she realized then, as she might already have known the instant she decided she was going to come back here and talk to him, that she could not stand to keep carrying it around inside for one more moment. It was the worst possible time for it to finally come out, but the truth had become a burning hot coal destroying her from the inside more and more the longer it stayed in.

Jacob was staring at her quietly, starting to look a little worried. “What is it?” he asked.

She made herself look back at his face. “I…haven’t told you something. We haven't told you something.”

“About all of this, you mean?” he asked.

She hesitated a few seconds and then nodded quickly. “The others…Please don’t think they…It’s not like they meant to deceive you, they just don’t think it matters. They keep trying to tell me this and that I shouldn’t feel responsible at all. That the Volturi don’t actually care about it and it was just their excuse for going through with it rather than the real reason…”

Jacob’s face was starting to look carefully guarded. “I don’t understand what you’re telling me,” he said flatly. Something about his tone suggested that he was a little afraid to understand it.

She had to look completely away from him to be able to finish. Then she could only just blurt it out quickly. “They keep trying to tell me it doesn’t matter, that it’s not important. But no matter how you look at it the truth is that they probably never would have bothered with this if Edward hadn’t already jeopardized everything that keeps the peace between the wolves and his family…for me.”

At first he kept staring off into the air for so many long seconds, not reacting at all, that it almost seemed like he might not have heard it. Then she heard him gradually starting to breathe more heavily, as if it was taking strong efforts to control himself, and he leaned over weakly with his head hanging and just staring at the ground. Finally he brought his hands up and held his face in them, muttering into them, “Tell me you’re kidding…”

Bella looked at him with a miserable, pained look. She had no words. Saying “I’m sorry” at this point seemed like it would sound so lamely inadequate.

She just said in a voice that barely escaped her, “I can’t tell you how...Jacob, please...Please say you can forgive me.”

His hands lowered to the ground, tightening into fists. He sounded barely able to form any words as he only forced out, “I…”

It was as if he had only just now been told who they had lost and was trying to process everything all over again, and Bella felt so completely helpless it was like she wasn't even there. His breathing as heightened and frantic as ever, he bent over with his head almost meeting the ground, collapsing under the despair. With his fists still clenched and his eyes squeezed shut, he could only release all of it in a low, wordless sound of overwhelming anger he made through his clenched teeth, a roar tearing right out from the deepest part of him that shook with such a strong hint of vulnerability and pain that it hardly sounded aggressive at all. The way he trembled all over for a brief moment made it look a little like he was struggling to control himself before he unintentionally phased.

As Bella watched him she badly wanted to touch him, to try to do something, and at the same time was almost as terrified of him now as she had been of anything else all night. All she could think to do was say something again. “Oh God. Say you can forgive me. Otherwise I don’t know how I can—”

He sprung back up to face her and cut off her words as he roughly grabbed one of her arms. His face was not at all himself as he looked at her piercingly. “Tell me something,” he said quickly, wildly. “If you could go back and make that choice again, knowing this time what it could mean, would you—?”

“No,” she gasped, interrupting him as soon as she knew what he was asking. “Don't. I can’t answer that, I can‘t.

“Dammit!” He grabbed both of her shoulders, forcing her to directly face him, and loosely shook her once. “Tell me!"

“It won’t make you feel any better to hear it!” she said beggingly. “Please. You already know."

“I don’t know!”

“Yes.” The answer released itself from her softly, in a kind of exhausted sigh as she closed her eyes. He let go of her so suddenly she stopped sitting up and sank back onto her legs. And she opened her eyes, not denying now, and said, "Of course. Of course I’d take it back. What do you think?"

He wiped a hand across his eyes, letting out one more heavy breath as he started to calm back down. “You’re such a liar, Bella,” he then said with a tone of dark humor.

“I’m so sorry,” she moaned. “I knew I should have told you. I hated that we had kept it from all of you.”

“That’s not what I mean. You told me you couldn’t live without him. You thought you didn’t have a choice.”

Now she had absolutely nothing to say. She just curled her legs up against her again, her form becoming small and drawn together next to his much larger figure, feeling tiny and completely worthless, despicable.

Then Jacob sighed, and his face had now softened, looking like the person she knew again. When he spoke again he did not sound angry at all anymore. "But I guess it took something like this for you to see that you actually could have made another choice."

After they both sat in a dead silence for a while, he looked to the side at her and saw all the anguished guilt on her face. He said softly, “Bella. Hey. Listen, I’m not angry with you, okay?”

“Are you sure?” she asked dryly, not sounding like she could care.

"No, not at you." He sighed. "I…I'm sorry. It’s just that…Can you understand? It's just really hard for me to hear that. That if you’d only stayed with me, then everything could have been…then Paul and Seth would be…”

Bella looked down at her feet sadly. “I know,” she muttered.

“Really, I don’t blame you for this. Of course I forgive you. It’s not your fault. I mean…you didn’t know. I know you didn’t know.”

She shook her head. "I don’t know if it’s really any excuse. It's not like I would really blame you if couldn't forgive me. It's amazing you don't hate me."

He looked at her like she had said something unbelievably insane. He said quietly, "How could I ever hate you?"

"I'm really not a good person, Jake. And you should know that better than anyone."

"Well, maybe I do know you better than anyone,” he said lightly. “I wouldn't argue with that..."

"Don't you realize?” she said, looking incredibly frustrated. “I did know what it could have cost when I chose the life I did, I just didn't want to think about it. And I think I finally realized this and had to think about it when I started seeing you again. That was what it took to make me see...But I still haven't wanted to acknowledge it. I've just been pushing it to the back of my head ever since then to keep it from driving me insane. Until now..."

"What do you mean?" he asked. "Why since you started seeing me?"

"Because I should have known," she said. "I have no excuse! If it wasn't Paul or Seth, if this entire problem with the Volturi showing up never even happened, it could have been somebody else. It could have been you. You could have been the one to pay for me and Edward being together forever. Oh my God!" Her eyes went wide as she visibly began to realize the full magnitude of it as she said it. "There has always been the danger that I'll make a mistake and hurt somebody, don't you see? But I never gave it any thought until I saw you again and I actually almost..." She shook her head and shuddered, hardly able to stand thinking about it. "And even the whole time that I kept saying, 'It doesn't make any sense, it doesn't make any sense'—because you're awerewolf, for God sakes—even all that time, it seems like there was this small voice in my head that did realize, 'Of course.' Of course it would be you. If I unintentionally killed you because of what I wanted to become, not just anybody, it would actually make perfect sense, if you think about it. Because maybe I was being punished this way. This is what it took to make me see what I did."

Jacob sat in silence for so long she almost thought he was never going to say anything more. But finally he pulled one thought out of the thousands that must have been going through his head and said softly, “Yet here I am, only still alive because of you."

“Barely.”

He looked to the side at her, his expression a little curious. “How hard was that to do? How close did I come to just…?”

She shook her head. “I won’t even try to tell you. I don’t know…If I had taken much longer at all to find you it could have easily been too late.”

After taking that in for a moment, he just nodded. "Well, I guess if you can’t help but start seeing things that way, it's a good thing you're not religious anyway."

It actually got a short, surprised laugh out of her.

"Though if you were,” he added thoughtfully, “I don't really see how you could have made the choice to become immortal in the first place."

"Oh, come on,” she said with a hint of annoyance. “Don't tell me you and Edward are going to start seeing things the same way. That seems like it has to be a sign of the apocalypse or something."

"What are you talking about?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"He has this whole thing about how we're all the wretched eternally damned who have lost their souls. Monsters that God looks at and only wants to spit on, basically. I don't know. Maybe we are."

He smirked a little. “Well, you have to admit there’s nothing very religiously sound about saying, ‘No thanks, I think I’d rather live forever than try to go to Heaven.’ I mean…people who believe in that stuff would say we all die for a reason, right?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I guess.”

He yawned widely and lay down on his back, crossing one of his feet over the other. “I just don’t know if I can see it in such a horrible way,” he said. “Or blame you much for it, at least. It’s not like those kind of risks that come with it were ever even whatI was the most worried about when I was trying to convince you not to go through with it. I didn’t really think about all that. I was just scared of you changing yourself like that without thinking it through enough and then having to live to regret it...And I wanted you,” he added. “Of course.”

“Of course,” she echoed in a dull voice.

Everything settled into a calm silence. Soon Jacob closed his eyes.

“Man,” he said after a while, so softly it was almost in a whisper. “I don’t feel like I can move another inch.”

“Just go to sleep for a while, then,” Bella said. “I can stay here.”

“You don’t have to,” he murmured.

“It’s fine. Do you really want to be alone now?”

He took so long to respond, breathing calmly with his eyes heavily closed, that it seemed at first he had already drifted off to sleep. Then he just whispered, “No.”

The night around them felt so surreal and quiet after everything that had happened in the past couple hours. Bella lay back and relaxed on the ground with a few feet between the two of them, looking up at the stars while Jacob sank into a deep, unresponsive sleep beside her. As she stayed this way, finally able to feel a welcome sense of peace for a while, she calmly and freely took in his close scent that was more a comfortable part of her than a disturbance now, and she listened to his heart. She listened to his heart still beating.