Post Eclipse, J/B. The E/B wedding's supposedly on, but everyone seems to be having trouble letting go.... The two men in Bella's life trying to come to terms with one another, without hurting her. Mostly J/B, but also E/B. Some J/A and all other characters. Bella is trying to make her choice, but it's not coming as naturally as she'd hoped...
1. Chapter 1: Confusion
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Jacob's little excursion into the woods at the end of Eclipse doesn’t last long. A week, maybe two, passes, before he realizes he really isn’t all that good at running through the forest, thinking too much, about…well…basically everything…everything to him at least; Bella.
She’s making too many trips to La Push and she knows it. She doesn’t bother asking herself why, it’s too blatantly obvious to both herself, and everyone who’s spent the last year gauging her mental well-being. Physical well-being too, in some cases.
The nights she drives out to the reservation in her old truck, barely making it to the beached log, which has now become her home away from home, she knows she’s in for a beating when she gets back to the house. No domestic disturbance, no, he wouldn’t think of it, he’s completely incapable of even conjuring up such an idea. The small part of herself that dies every time she sees the anguish in his eyes as she walks, windswept, back into her room and locks the door behind her to keep out Charlie’s prying “Hey, you okay's?”, (which are rhetorical really, and shouldn’t justify the stabs of guilt and pain that ripple through her chest and stomach every single time), is taking on gargantuan proportions.
Guilt. I love you Edward. I love him too. I miss him. I can’t live without you. He’s my own personal sun. I’m marrying you. I kissed him back. Want to spend the rest of eternity with you. I saw my life with him, and it was a happy one. I see eternity with you, but not life.
As the door falls shut, and she goes through the familiar motions of twisting the lock, taking off her jacket without turning away from the door, and letting it drop to the floor, in a heap of unfashionable moist mess, she tries to keep the sigh that’s been building up in her chest ever since she walked through the front door to a minimum.
Edward is there, she doesn’t need to turn around. She knows. He always is. He always will be. For some reason, aside from being the most comforting feeling she knows, it’s also a terrifying one.
He doesn’t bother her with formalities. No, “Are you okay?” or “How was it?” At which, now, she would probably just have snarled a sarcastic “Fantastic” anyways.
She still stood facing the door. The jacket in a heap at her feet, her hands, fingers fanned out, pressed up hard against the wood.
She realized it always took her too many mental steps, and sidetracks, to get back to the here and now. Edward’s cold hand, at the nape of her neck, helped. She felt him move in closer, as his free hand wound itself around her wrist, gently pulling her hand away from the door.
She knew this. She would turn to face him, his hand gently spinning her around ’till he could get a good look at the top of her head, as she would be staring intently at the mud stains on her shoes, and his impeccably polished ones.
She was right. Only this time his fingers didn’t find her chin to pull her gaze up to meet his. They stayed wrapped around her wrist. “I’m sorry,” He whispered. “I love you”. Again. Yes. Yes. I love you too, she thought, but what escaped her was the sigh she had been so desperate to swallow as she had locked her door.
Apologies. Apologetic silences, and guilty glances out the window as he drove her as close as he possibly could to wherever she needed to be.
“Is this it?” she was barely able to force out of her throat. Not knowing whether she feared him leaving, again, or whether the ’it’ she whispered into the blackness of her room was her fear of this being the extent of all they would ever be able to share. She answered her own question even before he was able to release her wrist, and bring his thumb up to caress the arch of her upper lip.
This is it. This is all I will ever be able to muster. This guilt, this love mixed in with guilt and regret. This must be it.
She leaned in to press her lips more firmly to his fingers. “I have to go.” he whispered. In the same, melodic voice she had first heard in the classroom of her High School over a year ago. The voice she wanted to remember as the one which had soothed her in the sunlit meadow before things had changed, become entwined, and warped beyond belief. She felt a momentary wave of relief spill through her. “Okay” she mumbled back. Barely making a sound as her warm breath escaped her mouth and forced itself against the marble skin of his thumb.
He was gone before she knew it. Again. As always. His escape both elegant and heart wrenching.
She realized her window was still open when her body reacted to the cold air that came pulsing in. Maybe it wasn’t the cold air. She shivered. Deep inside her, something else was feeling the cold.
She was too tired to ask herself why. Why she hadn’t asked “why?” when he had said he needed to go. It’s not because I don’t care, she told herself, as she pulled off her shoes, not bothering to change into anything which could remotely be referred to as a pair of pyjamas before she rolled onto her bed, pulling the covers halfway over herself and drifting into what is commonly referred to as sleep.
For Bella, sleep had become synonymous with pain. A pain she relished every time she felt herself falling. The cold sweat which would wake her, the cold pressure of Edwards hands on her face as she refused to open her eyes to let him see inside, the crumpled covers which she must have fought with during the brief periods she was actually really out. Tonight she slept. It was the same, restless sleep as always. “Always” she murmured, voicing her thoughts. Always. Such a ridiculous word to use for a time span of only two weeks. When she woke in the morning, the sun had not yet broken through the deep layer of fog and cloud which seemed to circle perpetually over Forks.
No sun. Not today. Not ever. Its Forks, she reminded herself.
He had been running for too long. The first day had turned into the first night, which had turned into the second. He just wanted to be away from the prying eyes of the pack. Please. Please, just don’t come looking, he thought to himself. He couldn’t remember how much of the past week he had spent in human form, and how much he had spent galloping through the woods, tongue out, fur drenched, in the form he had come to despise.
Thinking came easier when he could do it at a trot, tongue dangling out the side of his mouth, far enough away from the marauding thoughts of the friends he knew would be looking, wondering, worried.
Pride and fear. Love. He wondered if he made a pro’s and con’s list which would win out. There’s no way. No way. “No way what” he felt himself asking, in Sam’s voice. “No way she’ll choose you? No way you’ll be able to show your face here again? No way to heal from this?” He didn’t know the answer himself. He growled as he felt the cold chill of the autumn wind ripple across his fur. Just no way. Ever.
He decided to make peace. No way. Never. No. Not you. All the negations he hadn’t been willing to accept before he had let his fingers linger across the elegant handwritten invitation which had been so ‘considerately’ left in Billy’s mailbox.
No. Just no. Get over yourself, he gritted his teeth and glared at the closest branch he caught sight of. It was detached from its trunk, and disintegrated into a million little splinters before he could take another breath. No. No, no, no, no. Go home. Go to the wedding. Live. Do whatever she isn’t willing to do. Live. Just do it. A grimace flicked across his not so human face as he reminded himself of one of the most crappy advertising slogans he had heard over the past couple of years. Yeah, right. Just do it.
As she forcefully dissolved her grip on the sheets she had been close to tearing apart that night, she sat up in bed. Just another day. One day closer to my wedding. Was it? Why had Edward left in such a hurry last night? Had her last trip to La Push really been one too many? He always told her ‘always’. As if nothing she could ever do would change that. Always. She sighed involuntarily. Not bothering to restrain herself this time. There was a knock at the door. “Bells?” A familiar concerned voice. “Listen, I…” The hesitation spread thick as a five-year-old’s peanut-butter sandwich. “I….I made breakfast. Why don’t you come on down. I don’t know if the scrambled eggs will hold out for too long. There’s coffee too.” She grimaced, again, involuntarily. “Okay Cha…Dad. I’ll be right down. Just give me a second.” Normalcy. Come on. Normal. Just do it. She thought to herself.
As she made her way down the stairs, ironing out her shirt with her hands as she went, she prepared herself for the awkwardness which would ensue.
“Hey Dad.” She tried on the cheery voice she had also practiced last year, when Edward had left. Although, if she did say so herself, this one could have been considered slightly more convincing. “Heya Bells. I put your breakfast on the table” He met her at the bottom of the stairs, as he pressed a large, cracked mug into her hands, containing what she guessed was Charlie’s version of a really, really huge espresso. He had never really been one for milk and sugar, both in coffee…and, she guessed, in life. No sweetener.