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Paris

Summary:
What if Bella had never jumped off that cliff? What if Alice had never seen her die? What if the Cullens had never had a reason to return to Forks? AU


Notes:
There are a few passages in this story taken directly from New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. That's because, in order to write this Alternate Universe successfully, I have to be able to take scenes already in the canon and alter them to fit the consequences of the different choices in my own universe. The characters are still the same, so they would still say and think very similar things to what they said and thought in the original story. That being said, obviously the entire Twilight Universe belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I am not that brilliant.


4. Chapter 4

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2927   Review this Chapter

Paris

Chapter Four

The ride home was unusually quiet. It was normal for me to stare out the window while Jake chattered away, but as we passed the woods and left the reservation into Forks, he did nothing other than stare through the windshield. I felt uncomfortable sitting in the car with him, something that I had never felt before. The trees could not hold my attention. They were dark, and I kept imagining I saw things in them. I wanted to take his hand, to feel safe sitting next to him, but instead a felt a deep dread at the base of my throat. I tried to remember the things I had said that morning, that we had said the night before. I wondered if he was upset at me, for ducking under his arm and claiming exhaustion. I wondered if he was angry, if he felt I was leading him on. I wondered if I was leading him on. My thoughts would not settle. It was for once a night without rain, just cloud cover, but I wished that I could see the stars.

As we reached Charlie's, I sat still for a moment, trying to work the words around my tongue. It took a minute to blurt it out.

"Is anything wrong?" When he didn't answer I looked over at him. His face was blank. "Jake?"

He turned to me and, after a minute obvious struggle, smiled at me and laughed. But the laugh did not sound right; it was bitter, and left a funny taste in my mouth. I tried to smile back, and finally was forced to slide open my door and step out of the car, unable to think of anything else to say. I turned to ask him to call me later, but the moment I had closed the car door he had started the engine. He was gone in minutes, driving faster than necessary. I walked miserably into the house, slipping quietly up the stairs and checking in on Charlie to be sure he was asleep. Then I washed up, brushed my teeth, and collapsed into bed.

Edward watched me again that night, and I watched him watching me. His face was more perfect that I ever could have imagined but I wished he could talk to me, thought I was unable to say anything to him. I wondered, even as I was dreaming, if there was something wrong with my brain, that it was not creative enough to think up new dreams.

School the next week was just as I expected it to be. Horrible.

I wandered listlessly through my classes, thinking back on the times when I was just a floating ghost, gone from all of this. I was almost wished to be able to go back to that point, because there I couldn't worry. Here, every person who passed me was a reminder of the danger I was putting these people in. Every class was an hour of guilt. I saw Victoria in every redheaded freshman, jock, teacher, and janitor. I had never realized how many people at Forks High had red hair. On Monday startled those around me in my English class that morning by jumping out of my seat at the sound of friends shrieking at each other in the hallway outside the classroom door, already seeing the attack, the blood, the panic. I managed to stifle the impulse better as the week went on, but I still tensed at each high-pitched sound. I tried to convince teachers to keep the windows closed in every class, despite the unseasonably warm air blowing its way towards the town. I complained of cramps during gym for the first half of the week and laid myself down in the nurses' office for the rest of the period, jumping up at every squeal or scream emanating from the hallway, giving into the impulse because there was no one around to see me. When the bell rang, I was so relieved I would forget about my supposed cramps and run out of the office and down the hall to the doors. By Thursday the excuse had worn thin, and I struggled through whatever game it was we were playing; it could have been soccer, or hockey for all I knew; I couldn't pay enough attention to be sure. My friends were obviously worried, and I couldn't say that I really blamed them. Mike was being especially nice to me; knowing about Harry's funeral, he assumed that this was where my depression was coming from. Angela sat next to me quietly, in class and at lunch, and when no one was looking she would reach over to squeeze my hand, or ask me if I needed anything. I was grateful to them both, but their kindness only increased my guilt. I didn't know if I could live with myself much longer, risking people's lives like this.

I still went to La Push every afternoon, like I was supposed to in order to stay safe, but Jake wasn't around anymore. I sat in Billy's kitchen, listening to him and Charlie watch the March Madness in the other room and staring broodingly out the window, telling myself that Jake would show up at any moment now. He never did. He would not return my calls, either. When I demanded of Billy where he had been, or what was wrong with him, the answers were evasive. It reminded me of the time after Jake's first transformation and before he had helped me guess what he had become. The time where Billy had claimed that Jake had thought I was leading him on, and he was now sick of it. But this time I didn't even get that much of an explanation, and I couldn't think of what I'd done to cause Jake to ignore me like this.

For me, it was like the wound in my chest had been slowly stitched together, only to be torn apart once again. It pained me, constantly, but I did not go back to my self-less existence as I had when Edward had left. It seemed to me a mark of Jake's healing power that even when he had abandoned me, his presence had still healed me to a point that I was able to survive. But I did not want to. Losing Jake, losing my sun made me cold despite the warming weather. Tears dampened my cheeks as I slept, even though Edward still watched me in my dreams.

On Saturday, I woke up slowly, miserably, the prospect of a day without work or Jacob to occupying me making me want to just stay in bed. School was winding down, and my teachers were assigning less homework than I would like. My grades had gone up in the time after Edward had left and then down after Jake had come into my life, but now they were just staying stagnant, unchangingly pitiful. Like me.

I got dressed in some junk sweats, not hungry for breakfast and deciding for once that I did not feel like forcing myself to eat. I went down to the kitchen instead to grab the old pencil sharpener, thinking I would make my math homework last as long as possible, when I saw him out the window.

I seemed to be seeing a lot of things outside the kitchen window lately.

Jake was waiting for me outside, leaning against my truck's driver's side door. I smiled, an involuntary action. I couldn't help it. Just seeing him there made me feel safe again.

"Hey," I said as I reached him and stood there awkwardly, wondering if I was going to be allowed to drive myself home. I wanted to hug him, I was so happy to see his smile again, even though it had the same sort of bitter edge his laugh had carried the night before. "What are you doing here?"

He stepped aside and opened the door for me, a gentlemanly gesture that was not like him. I frowned at it.

"What are you doing here?" I asked again, my voice more suspicious this time. His smile widened, almost a grin, and he winked at me. But it still felt false somehow. "Are you okay?"

"Let's just drive," Jake said, and I started to protest. But then I saw the pain behind the smile, the small lines on his eyes and mouth which showed the effort it was taking him to keep it in place. So I slid into the cab and let him close the door behind me and then round to the passenger's side. I allowed the engine to roar to life, a sound that was more comforting to me now after having tried to drive the Rabbit. Jake didn't bother to buckle his seatbelt, but I didn't comment on it. This was exactly the reason I did not want him fighting Victoria; his own cockiness was going to get him killed.

We drove in silence. The roaring engine did not, of course, lend itself to conversation, but somehow we'd always been able to get past that. Jake was my sun, the thing that had always made me most happy. But now he seemed clouded over and rainy, and I was suddenly terrified of losing him. I pulled over on the shoulder of the highway, and stared at him until he would look back at me.

"What's going on here, Jake?"

He looked away at first. I'd never seen him act like this, so unsure and hesitant. He was never so quiet. Even when he was exhausted, he collapsed with great gusto. The minuteness of his movements worried me.

"Jake." I tried to keep my voice even, calm. "What's happened? Why...why haven't you been talking to me?" The déjà vu was too much for me; I felt hollow and pained. The tears came to my eyes completely involuntarily, just as they had that day on the beach when he had told me that we no longer could be friends. All the questions I wanted to ask stuck in my throat. I felt that I already knew the answers; I had heard them all before, and not only from just him.

Glancing back up at me, he twitched a bit.

"I'm sorry, Bella, I really am," he began, but I shook my head. My eyes blinked rapidly, keeping the tears in check as best as I could.

"I don't want to hear that you're sorry, Jake." There was a note of desperation in my voice that I didn't like. "You've been telling me that you're sorry for the last...I don't know, ever since Harry died. Every mistake, you're always sorry." I bit my lower lip, hesitating. "I miss you," I confessed.

He just stared at me, his eyes emoting something I did not recognize. I had never seen it before.

"Bella..." He took a breath, started again. "Bella, I'm trying to keep my promise. I really am."
I reached out and grabbed his hand, interlacing our fingers without really thinking about it. He sounded almost like he was in pain. I felt a piece of me hurt as well, a dull ache where my heart used to be, totally unconnected to the hurt of losing him, and I understood than any pain Jacob felt I was able to feel too. It seemed hardly fair for there to be so much pain in one person's life.

"You're doing fine, Jake," I said earnestly, running my thumb along the back of his palm. "You're my best friend. You're my sun."

He was not watching my face, but instead our hands. He swallowed audibly, uncomfortable and hesitant. I hated Jacob like this, all quiet and strange. I wanted to scream at him, to force him to act as he always had before. I wanted him to be spontaneous, energetic. Happy.

"I'm trying," he muttered, "but it's so hard to be your friend, Bella." He looked straight at me, his other arm outstretched, lifting my face by the chin with his hand so that I was looking into his eyes. "I love you, Bella. And I swear, I'll be your friend no matter what. I'll take any piece of you that I can. I just..." He had no words anymore. I understood. I couldn't think of anything to say either.

We sat there like that for what felt like a long time, me rubbing the back of his hand with my thumb and Jake holding my face and looking into my eyes. I managed to keep my breathing normal, but nothing would slow my heart rate. It wasn't speeding, exactly, but it had increased enough to let me know it. I wanted to just close my eyes and enjoy the moment, but I did not want to look away from Jake's eyes. I didn't think I could.

Slowly, very slowly, Jake took his own thumb and ran it, gently, along my jaw line, keeping his hand under my chin. My eyes fluttered shut for just a moment, then opened again to find Jake's face inching closer to my own. I tried to think, I tried to reason. Was this what I wanted? Was this what was right?

Here was Jacob, wonderful, sweet, funny Jacob who had stitched me back together when I had been torn apart. Who had made me want to smile and laugh again. Who had taught just to be happy the way a toddler is taught how to walk. He had been there every step of the way for me, teaching, guiding, loving. Giving in to my insane requests, not pushing even when I knew how much it killed him to not be more than friends. Working like hell not to break his promise, even through his transformation from human to werewolf, forcing me to figure out what he was. I couldn't think of him as anything other than my Jacob, my sun, my own warmth.

And then here I was, hurting, torn up from the inside out. Knowing that I would never truly be whole again. I, who had hurt so badly the last week just out of not being able to see Jake. I owed every moment of happiness I had to Jake, and it didn't seem fair that I wasted them yearning for someone who did not love me and who was not coming back. But it was equally impossible not to do so. How could Jake possible want me? He deserved so much better.

But, I needed to know, didn't also deserve to have this, this little piece of something that only I could give him?

Didn't he deserve just one kiss?

There were alarm bells going off in my head, warning me of the consequences of this not working out. What if I kissed Jacob, and I found I just...couldn't? Couldn't touch, or be touched, in these ways ever again? What if the wound reopened itself, and left me without Jacob, without anybody?

There was no time. No room in my mind and my heart for such thoughts. It felt right, Jake's fingers in between my own, his hand on my face. His kiss could only feel more so. I just would always know, deep down, that as right as it felt it didn't feel perfect.

And I had known perfection.

But it was too late. I inhales, sharply, and Jake's hand was cradling my face and his lips were on mine, so carefully, so hesitantly. They were warm, warmer than mine, and as he pulled away slowly I wanted to kiss them again. But I slid my eyes open to look at him again.

Jake didn't speak for a moment. He just looked at me, trying to see what I meant by this. It was a reflection I was not used to in him.

But then the old Jake reappeared, grinning, shouting out a cry of such happiness that I had to laugh. He didn't ask me for permission, he was not gentle or wary, but just scooped me up in his arms over the shift stick and kissed me again. It was only as I began to kiss him back that he went stiff in my arms.

This had happened to me before, of course. More than once. But those lips had been cold, the arms like marble. Jake was softer, much warmer. It shut down my ability to breathe. I couldn't take this, not again. My wound, which had minutes ago seemed more or less completely numbed out, began throbbing again more that I could imagine. I tried to pull out of Jake's arms, to apologize somehow, but he held me fast, tighter than he had even just a moment before.

He inhaled, long and deep, and exhaled so hotly that with my face so close to his I winced in the heat. Then he pushed me as far away from me as he could in the cab, so that I slammed painfully into the driver's side door. Opening my mouth soundlessly, watching him with tortured eyes and ignoring the throbbing of both physical and emotional injuries, I tried to speak. But Jake was just watching me, his eyes widening in panic.

"Vampire," he growled, and threw his door open and exploded into a werewolf, running so fast that I blinked and he was gone, leaving only me and the tatters of his clothes behind.