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Seducing Ms Swan

Summary:
AU Post-New Moon. Bella never jumped, Alice never had her vision and Edward never came back. Six years later, Bella is struggling to make a new life for herself as a teacher in Rochester, New York. How will she fare when a very familiar student crops up in her classroom? Will she be able to remain professional, or will old ties get in the way? Edward is convinced that getting Bella back is just a matter of 'persuasion', but Bella isn't prepared to be that cooperative. What's more, she's in the grip of a dark secret which threatens to prevent her from loving ever again. Bella Swan is slipping under...


Notes:
Thankyou to twike for beta work. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


13. Leader

Rating 3.3/5   Word Count 3684   Review this Chapter

Eager to please,

Trying to be what they need

But I'm so very tired

I've stopped trying to find

Any peace in my mind

Because it tangles the wires

Some Little Known Yet Totally True Facts About Me, Jacob Black.

One. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a life ruiner. I did not come out of the womb with the intention of breaking up The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, also known as ‘The Biggest Fucking Screw Up Known To Man’ or ‘Doomed Relationships: The Bella & Cullen Chronicles’. Sure, if it had been up to me, Bella never would have met the leech, let alone fallen in love with him, only to have her heart ripped apart and stamped on less than a year later- hell, if I could control that kind of stuff then vampires wouldn’t even exist- but that doesn’t mean that I was rooting for their relationship to fail from the very start. I wanted Bella to be happy, and the devastated, frozen, zombie-esque state she fell into after he left definitely came under ‘not happy’. I knew she loved him, but I also knew that he didn’t deserve her and that he was dangerous, cruel and deserting.

Two. When Bella turned up in my garage on that fateful day in January looking like death had swallowed her up, sucked out her soul and spat it back out, I honestly didn’t think I’d ever be able to put her right again. Truthfully, I had no idea where to even start. There were just too many things that were wrong with her, too many parts that were broken. Mending Bella wasn’t like fixing a car; there was no manual, handbook or easy step by step guide- every day was another challenge, another exercise in caution. I learned to recognise all the signs and signals which told me how she was feeling, whether she was in anyway nearer to escaping the dark tunnel she’d been trapped in.

Three. I love Carole more than anything in the entire world. Okay, so that isn’t a little known fact, but it is true. Every time I see her, I feel like it’s for the very first time and it’s like being electrocuted, or being attacked to some major natural disaster; the bursting of a dam, an earthquake, a cyclone, divine intervention. It sounds cheesy and clichéd and God knows I was never good at metaphors, but it’s the only description I can come up with that describes what she does to me. I love her. And it’s so different to how I loved Bella; stronger, purer, less painful, less fucked up. I don’t have to fight to be with Carole; we just are.

I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t love Bella. I did. She was everything to me; the teenage years of my life were defined by her, saturated by her presence. I don’t have a single memory from the age of fifteen to seventeen that doesn’t somehow relate back to her; she was my crush, first dance, first proper kiss. But that doesn’t mean we were right for each other. That doesn’t mean she loved me back. I don’t know what I saw in her, romantically. I guess I was searching for something that wasn’t there, imagining something which didn’t exist. Paul once told me that the only reason I liked her was because she was even more screwed up than I was, that she made me feel better about myself. Needless to say, he didn’t quite walk straight for a long time after that.

Four. I’m not an easily scare-able person. Spiders, horror movies, clowns, the dark; I couldn’t care less. I’ve seen some seriously freaky shit in my time- after all, who needs a horror movie when you’re living one?- so it’s actually pretty hard to shake me up. That said, there have been times in my life which have truly terrified me. Like the first time I saw my dad cry, the day my mom got diagnosed with cancer; like when I was a kid and Rachel had to spend a week in hospital because she had appendicitis. But of course, all that stuff was strictly minor-league compared to how I felt on the night Bella and Brady were attacked. I’ve never been more terrified than that night. Even now, the memory of it is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat which, considering I run at one-oh-one 24-7, is saying something.

Five. That night was also the closest I’ve ever come to wanting to die. Now, I’m not usually a suicidal person at all. At all. I’m generally a pretty upbeat kind of guy; I leave the bitching and moaning to girls like Embry. (Joking. But not really.) But I do have dark moments. And none have ever been as dark as the night of Harry Clearwater’s funeral; the she-vampire went after Bella; the night Brady’s life was destroyed.

It’s hard to put the things that happened into words, partly because I’ve since made an active attempt to erase a lot of it from my mind. But there are some things I haven’t forgotten... things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget.

The sounds, more than anything. Sounds of funeral songs and the breeze through the trees which somehow managed to mutate into screams of fear and pain, jarring with the female leech’s maniacal laughter. The sound of paws on the ground as me and the other werewolves tried to run to the rescue, the entire pack flying through the trees like foam on the wind. Brady’s screams rattling in my brain as his torture was played out in my head, as though it was me who was being attacked, like his pain was my pain. The double vision was nauseating- one minute I was Jacob and running to save Brady, the next I was Brady and I was bleeding on the ground, being slowly driven insane and wondering why my brothers had let me down. The gut-wrenching, terrible realisation that we just weren’t going to be fast enough to save him...

... I would have done anything to switch places with him. After all, it’s a lot easier to have the main role in a tragedy than to be the one of the side characters left around later to pick up the pieces. Who do you think suffers more when a bunch of kids get in a car crash? The ones who die on impact in the back seat, or the driver who survives ‘cause he was wearing a seatbelt? Hell isn’t dying; it’s watching people you love be destroyed.

There’s a reason that people say suicide is an easy way out.

Six. The hardest part of-

“Jacob?”

A voice made me come crashing back to the present, bringing my chain of thoughts to an abrupt halt. I remembered where I was; in a cold, empty corridor at Forks hospital, hiding from everyone and making stupid lists inside my head to pass the time.

It had been barely four hours since Brady had had his heart attack, but in that time I had been dealing with doctors, hospital workers, tribe members, pack members and, most difficult of all, Brady’s family. As alpha, it was my duty to sort out all of them, answer their questions and hand out the tissues. I’d also been making frantic phone calls to Bella, who STILL wouldn’t pick up the goddamn phone. Things had finally got too much half an hour ago and I had snuck away to try and find a place where I could stop being the ‘alpha with all the answers’ and just be ‘shocked and scared shitless’ Jacob.

So when I heard my name being called, I didn’t open my eyes. I didn’t want to have to cope with anymore. When I was a really little kid, my sister Rebecca told me that having your eyes shut made you invisible. I was four, she was eight and the only kid I knew who had read all of The Hobbit and, as far as I was concerned, that made her the World Expert On Everything. It took me a long time to figure out she had made it all up, and even then, on the times when I really wished I could disappear, I still pretended that Rebecca had been telling the truth. So I kept my eyes shut, hoping whoever was talking to me would just go away, or, even better, that I would just melt away into nothing.

“Jacob,” I heard again. I felt movement and heard the sound of sneakers squeaking on linoleum as someone took a step towards me. It was obvious that this keeping my eyes shut gig wasn’t working, but I clung to it in vain for a few more seconds, before the voice began to address me again. “Come on Jake-“

I gave up. “What?” I cut him off, opening my eyes to see Quil standing there. He looked tired and somehow smaller than usual; as though exhaustion had caused his normally burly shoulders to slump and his large frame to shrink. He was watching me with a drained, cautious look on his face. One glance told me that he didn’t have any news. He had just come to see how I was.

But that didn’t stop me from asking him, as he sunk down on to the plastic bench besides me, “Hear anything new?”

He shook his head. “Just more of the same,” he said, resting his arms on his knees and putting his head in his hands. “He’s not responding to any of the doctors’ attempts to wake him up.”

I exhaled in a long slow sigh. Quil’s words didn’t come as a surprise; I hadn’t expected him to tell me that in the short time I had been sitting out here Brady had made a miraculous recovery. But that hadn’t stopped a bit of wishful thinking (or was it hope? I wasn’t sure whether I knew the difference anymore) on my part.

We sat in silence for a while, the things that neither of us wanted to say hanging in the air like unexploded landmines. I knew what I should’ve said; I should’ve told Quil that everything was going to be okay, that Brady wasn’t going to die. I should’ve taken control of the situation, acted like a real alpha and gone to comfort the rest of the pack, who were probably feeling lost and confused and scared, and wondering why the hell their leader had abandoned them at their time of need.

It’s what Sam would’ve done.

I knew exactly what I should have been doing. But I was still sitting here in this deserted corridor, pretending not to exist.

Fail, Jacob. Supreme fucking fail.

Quil must have finally figured out that I wasn’t going to steer the conversation forward, because he spoke again.

“They’re not sure how much longer Brady’s body will keep fighting,” he said. It was almost painful, how matter-of-fact he was being, but then Quil had always been pretty frank. Me? I was finding it difficult to even think Brady’s name.

“Right.” was all I managed to say in response. This was the last conversation in the world I wanted to be having. I wished I could be anywhere but here in this hospital, trapped by white walls and overshadowed by death.

“They’ve told his parents to expect the worst,” Quil added. He was looking at me now, sizing up my reaction. I dragged my eyes to meet his.

“Do the doctors know... I mean, have they got any idea of... when?” For fuck’s sake, just spit it out! I thought to myself. But I couldn’t; I couldn’t voice words like ‘death’ and ‘dying’. I felt like I was eight years old again and being told that my mom had gone to sleep forever, because my dad couldn’t bring himself to explain that she’d died in a car crash and was never coming back.

“No,” Quil replied, “they don’t. They said it could be next week, or it could be in a couple of years- there’s no way of knowing how long a coma will last or how it will end.” Quil was doing it too; avoiding the use of the word ‘death’. Was it because he was scared too, or was he just doing it for my benefit? I vaguely remembered learning the name for words you use instead of other, more painful words at school, but I couldn’t remember what it was. Bella would know.

“Right,” I repeated. I don’t know what it meant- nothing was even vaguely ‘right’ about this situation; the word was just a space-filler, something to come out with when all the alternatives were too sickening and terrifying to think about, let alone say. I felt as though I could have written the book on ‘how not to respond to a crisis’.

Bracing myself, I stood up. I had to do something productive, I had to at least pretend that I was still in control. “I’m going to go and speak to the doctors,” I said, with more authority than I felt. “Maybe I can...”

But I never finished my sentence, because at the moment I heard a shout.

Quil and I both turned around, surprised, to see Charlie Swan half walking, half running down the narrow corridor towards us. He was red faced and his breathing was coming in heaving, gasps. He looked like he had run a marathon, or at least a couple of flights of stairs.

Maybe it was instinct, perhaps it was a lucky guess, or maybe it was just because I knew Charlie like I knew my own father, but I instantly knew that something was very, very wrong.

“Charlie-“ I said, taking a step towards him. Charlie staggered forwards and grabbed my arm to steady myself. I could feel him shaking against me, but I couldn’t tell whether it was from lack or breath or emotion. I waited anxiously for him to explain and finally, he managed to choke out some words.

“It’s...Bella...” he panted.

My blood froze.

Bella?

I felt the name as though Charlie had thrown a knife at me. Ignoring Quil’s shocked gasp, I gripped Charlie’s wrists tightly and said frantically, “What’s wrong with Bella? Is she hurt? What’s happened?!”

“She’s been in a motorbike accident,” Charlie said. His breathing was beginning to return to normal now. “She’s broken a few ribs and hurt her shoulder, or something. I got a phone call. Apparently she’s been burnt in a few places as well, but the nurse told me that she’s going to be okay, she’s alive...”

No wonder she hasn’t been returning my calls.

Charlie continued talking, but I wasn’t listening; I was mentally processing what he had just told me and producing lightning fast conclusions.

Bella’s in some sort of trouble. Bella’s in Rochester. The leeches are in Rochester.

After a few moments, I had worked enough stuff out to make some sense of the was how I understood it: Bella was badly injured and in hospital, in the same month that the very coven of vampires that had been responsible for ruining her life six years previously had rocked up on her doorstep.

It didn’t take a genius to work out what was going on. One of them had almost definitely done something to her, and my money was on Edward.

Furious, terrified, shocked, every-other-negative-adjective-you-can-fucking-think-off, I let out a string of frantic curses and kicked the nearest stretch of wall. Quil didn’t caution me this time; his thoughts were following a similar direction to mine.

“The leech?” He said quietly, his tone shocked. I nodded, bringing my hand up and pressing it against the wall.

My mind was still racing.

My body was shaking.

My breathing was shallow.

I knew that I only had two options. What was I going to do? Stay or run? Which role was the most important? Alpha or friend? Where did I need to be the most? Washington or New York?

Brady or Bella?

The question made me catch my breath. Why do I have to make that choice?

You already made it, a voice inside my head replied. You made it the night they were attacked.

And within two heartbeats- one for Brady, one for Bella- I made my decision. I couldn’t leave Bella alone and possibly dying on the other side of the country. She was vulnerable, she needed me, she was at the mercy of a crew of bloodthirsty vampires.

There’s no more hope for Brady, but there is for Bella.

So really, there was nothing else I could do. I had no alternative; I had to go.

I began to run. I heard Charlie’s surprised cry, and then him calling after me, but I didn’t look back. Quil would have to come up with some explanation; it wasn’t my concern.

I turned a corner, flew round another; ran past wards, doctors, nurses, patients; pushed through groups of visitors and, finally, made it within sight distance of the doors. And then, as I sprinted forwards, I saw the only person in the entire world who could make me stop.

A woman with short, wavy red hair was standing by the hospital check-in desk, in conversation with a nurse. She was tall and mainly slim, but with a subtle roundness to her stomach and form which showed her to be pregnant. I called out her name, and she instantly turned around.

Carole saw me, and a look of surprise crossed her face as she took in my crazed expression. “Jacob...” she said, taking a step away from the desk and moving towards me. I came to a shuddering stop, metres away from her. I was breathing heavily, and I was shaking, but I didn’t have time to calm down. I grabbed Carole’s hands in my own, my thumb by chance brushing her wedding ring as I did so. Her look of surprise had swiftly morphed to one of alarm at my behaviour. “Jake, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Bella,” I explained quickly, subconsciously echoing Charlie’s opening words. “Charlie says she’s been in some sort of motorbike accident and that she’s in hospital in Rochester.” Carole’s blue eyes widened in shock. She opened her mouth to speak, but I shook my head. There was no time.

“I know it’s got something to do with the Cullens being there, and Quil agrees with me. I need to go, Carole. I have to; Bella could be about to die or- or maybe even worse, I don’t know, I...” I ran out of steam, and just stared at her helplessly. Carole, of course, understood what I was talking about. As my soulmate, she was entitled to knowing the secrets of the pack, and she therefore knew the entirety of my history with Bella and the blood-suckers. I watched as she tried to make sense of what I had just told her.

“Are you sure the vampires are involved?” she finally asked, her voice quiet and worried. Carole liked Bella a lot and the few times she had stayed with us they had got on very well.

“Yes, certain. I need to be there.”

“But on your own? Surely you can take some of the others with you?” Carole was beginning to look distressed. “You can’t fight a coven of vampires by yourself!” I could see she was worried about me, so I took hold of both her shoulders and looked her straight in the eyes.

“There’s not much they can do to me in a hospital surrounded by people; besides, I can take care of myself. It’s Bella I’m more worried about; she’s already injured, and it wouldn’t be difficult for them to hurt her even more, or maybe even try and bite her...” I trailed off, the conclusion of that sentence far too horrifying to verbalise.

Carole kept me in a intense gaze for a few seconds, before relaxing a bit. “Okay,” she said quietly, “okay, I believe you. You’d better leave as soon as possible.”

I felt a rush of relief that she was on my side, but I had to make sure that she was positive. needed vindication, pure and simple. I knew how what I was doing must look to an outsider. It was so stupid, so irresponsible. What right did I have to go running off to the other side of the country, leaving one of my brothers on the edge of the death in hospital, my pregnant wife alone and using up all our savings in the process? I almost felt as if I needed someone to slap some sense into me.

“Are you sure?”

She nodded. “Yes, this is Bella we’re talking about. She’s your best friend and she’s in danger; of course you’ve got to go.”

“And the pack? Brady...”

Carole seemed to understand what I was thinking. “Don’t worry about them. I’ll keep in touch and let you know if anything new happens. Go!”

I hung on for a few moments longer. “And what about you?” I asked. “Will you be okay? You and the twins?”

Carole half smiled. “They’re not due until July, Jake; I’ll be fine.”

The incredibleness of this woman never ceased to amaze me. Overwhelmed, I pulled her into as fierce an embrace as her stomach allowed and kissed her hard, before letting go.

“I love you,” I said.

“Oh no you don’t- no goodbyes,” she shook her head, wagging a finger as she mock-scolded me. It was clear she was trying to keep this light-hearted, but I could see the worry written into her eyes. It became more pronounced as her smile faded and she said to me seriously, “Just promise you’ll come back to me in one piece.”

“I promise.”

And with one last quick glance, I turned and began to run again, through the doors and out into the night.

The next time I stopped, I was on a plane to Rochester.