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Look Deeper

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Look Deeper

On the surface, they are the perfect family.

Husband and wife and two children, a boy and a girl. They have a little
house in the reserve, right by the woods. Bella has followed into her
mother’s footsteps and is a primary school teacher. Jacob has a garage.
Their daughter loves to beat Sam and Emily’s boys at everything from
climbing trees to telling tall tales and with some luck, their son will
never know what it feels like to feel the wolf bursting out from
underneath your skin.

On the surface, they are happy.

You have to look deeper to see the cracks.

They are, Jacob used to remark to his friends with a self-depreciating
laugh, just like the Cullens. Polished gleaming surface and something
ugly hiding beneath… Whenever he said that, Embry would laugh and mock
him for waxing poetically like a girl. So he stopped.

Alice, he thinks, would understand. But Alice is a Cullen and Jacob is
rude, not cruel.

Alice understands many things he once didn’t believe a walking corpse
capable of comprehending, let alone feeling.

He tries not to think about how creepy it is that she is the one who
understands him best. He tries harder not to think that this is a role
that should be reserved for his wife.

“It’s okay to hate us, you know,” Alice once told him as they took a
walk through the woods. It was a mere illusion of privacy, the pack
would know his feelings as soon as he shifted the next time, but Jacob
was grateful for it all the same. Their pity was hard enough to endure
as it was. Her smile was sweet and understanding and Jacob wished it
wouldn’t hurt so much because he knew Bella could smile just like that
if he could only get her to smile again.

Jacob remained silent for a while, mulling over his answer. “I don’t
hate all of you,” he had finally said and he could barely believe how
easily the words came to him. “Anymore,” he added as an afterthought,
it would have felt too much like a lie to him otherwise though Alice
already knew the truth.

“You hate Edward.” She didn’t sound upset at all. Years later, Jacob
would still marvel at it. Sometimes, he suspected she didn’t get upset
at Jacob because she hated Edward, too.

Jacob had laughed humourlessly and told her that he had many reasons to
hate Edward Cullen, starting with the fact that he had been so
disgustingly rich money virtually came guzzling out of his ears and not
ending with the fact that he had been a rotting bloodsucker.

Alice met his gaze and there shone so much empathy in these eyes that
Jacob had to fight the urge to turn away. He couldn’t bear her pity.
“But you hate him most for not being here.”

His sigh was explosive. “Bella…” It was all there was to be said,
really.

The bizarre reason for his hate hasn’t changed. Every time he questions
his own sanity, all it takes is one glance at Bella’s gaunt face and
her haunted eyes to remind Jacob that she is the only reason that had
ever truly mattered.

“Smile for me, Bells. Just a little smile?” he would plead and she
would smile. She always smiled for him. She tried so hard to make him
happy. They both pretended not to understand why her empty smiles only
ever made him sadder.

“It’s been two years! Why can’t she forget the bastard already?” he had
once screamed at Alice. Alice had smiled that special smile she
reserved only for Jacob and patted his back and told him it would be
alright. She had seen it.

Five years have passed since that day and Jacob is still waiting.

Alice keeps telling him he has to be patient. She has seen it. Bella
will move on. She will be happy again.

With every passing year, Jacob lost more of his faith in Alice’s powers
– or maybe just in her honesty – and yet clung all the more to her
promises. He has nothing else left to give him hope.

It had been years since he had last been able to meet the eyes of
Bella’s father. He avoided his father-in-law. He blamed him for not
making his daughter happy, Jacob knew he did. He would blame the man
who married his daughter and yet not once managed to make her truly
happy.

“You need to tell me what happened in Volterra”, he used to plead, for
Bella had never said more than ‘Edward is dead’ and no matter how much
he threatened or begged, Alice kept insisting it wasn’t her tale to
tell. Bella wouldn’t smile then. She wouldn’t try to please him.
Whenever Jacob mentioned Ventura, her face would become blank and her
movements choppy and she would refuse to speak to him for the rest of
the day. She spoke only to Alice then if she was on one of her many
visits to Forks. If she wasn’t, she would go through the day
mechanically; she would chop the vegetables and do the dishes and put
their children to bed with a good night kiss, but Jacob would see the
emptiness inside the shell that wore his wife’s skin.

He has learned not to ask.

Once, he had raged. The wolf’s fury had burned so hot in him he had
barely been able to keep his shape long enough to get outside when
Bella’s smiles turned yet again more brittle than usual and her eyes
became distant. He had been convinced they had done something with her
in Volterra, had broken her mind or brainwashed her, something,
anything, for if they had done something, it would be possible to undo
it. If they had done something to her, it wouldn’t be his fault.

“Be patient,” Alice beseeches him yet again as they sit at the shore of
First Beach.

He flicks a stone into the water. It doesn’t skip, just sinks right to
the ground. “I don’t know if I can.”

Alice is smiling again, but she looks sad. The smile seems painted onto
her face. “Do you love her?”

He doesn’t even has to think about the answer. “Of course.”

He has always loved Bella and nothing will change his feelings for her.
She was already broken when he fell in love with her, ever since
Volterra, she has just been more broken.

“Then you have no choice,” Alice points out serenely.

Jacob’s hands ball into fists at his sides and within him, the wolf
rages. He hates how calm Alice remains. Nothing ever seems to truly
touch her. Cruelly, he wonders if she was smiling even when she learned
of her brother’s death. “I love her,” he says and weighs the words as
they roll off his tongue. They come easily. They still ring true. Even
if he sometimes finds himself wishing they didn’t.

“But you wonder if she loves you, too.”

He meets Alice’s eyes, so old and wise, so knowing. What is wolf in him
is repelled, but many years have passed since Jacob last was the
hot-headed boy he had once been. More than that, he feels terribly
tired. “I thought your brother was the telepath,” he says with a wry
smile.

Alice’s smile falters, she turns her face away.

Too late, Jacob realizes this is her brother they are talking about.
She must hurt, too. It has taken just one thoughtless sentence to make
him feel like he is the foolish teenage boy again. He wants to
apologize, but he doesn’t. He can’t find the right words. He isn’t
sorry Edward is dead.

“She chose you, you know,” Alice whispers when Jacob has given up all
hope already. She slowly turns her head to face him again and there it
is, that smile Jacob has come to hate. It looks a bit brittle around
the edges right now, almost like Bella’s.

He snorts derisively. “The moment she learned Edward was about to get
himself killed by the Volturi, she ran off to save him. I think it’s
obvious what choice she would’ve made if he’d lived.”

There is a flash of anger in Alice’s eyes, so fleeting Jacob isn’t sure
he saw it at all. “That’s not the same,” she says, voice harsh, and now
he is sure he saw the anger in her eyes.

Jacob responds with nothing but a sullen look.

“Just because Edward died didn’t mean she had to choose you!” Alice
blurts out. “She could have stayed single or fallen for another man.”

Jacob runs a hand over his face, he feels so tired, so terribly tired.
“I guess,” he says uncertainly. It seems arrogant in hindsight, but he
had never seen it like that.

“Of course I’m right!” Alice huffs and throws a stone. It skips five
times over the water before it sinks. “Bella loves you.” She speaks
with the certainty of one who is used to seeing the future and Jacob
wants to believe so badly that she takes the certainty from having seen
Bella’s love for him.

He sighs. “You’re going to tell me to be patient and that everything
will turn out right.” He can’t quite the sarcasm out of his voice.
Sometimes, Jacob thinks he hates Alice for keeping his hope alive.

“Of course.”

Jacob laughs harshly. “Or maybe I should be content with what I have.”

He waits for Alice to tell him that he won’t have to, but she stays
silent.

Later, Jacob returns alone.

His packmates have become reasonably tolerant of Alice and the treaty
has even been adjusted so she can visit Bella in La Push, but they
aren’t exactly happy to have her around. They are both too weary today
to deal with the resentment.

So he returns alone, to find his children on the swings he built for
them and Bella giving them a push whenever they slow down.

They look happy.

Jacob comes closer, Bella looks up as she hears his footsteps. She
smiles. “Jacob, we’ve been waiting for you!”

You have to look deeper to see the cracks.

Jacob doesn’t want to see them. He tries to ignore how the cheerfulness
in Bella’s voice doesn’t quite match the brightness of her smile. He
makes a conscious decision to ignore the hint of melancholy that never
leaves her eyes.

He thinks, if he tries hard enough, he might be able to close his eyes
to the truth and see only the polished surface.

Yet if the only way he can see Bella is through the cracks, Jacob will
choose it over wilful blindness any day.

The End