“Wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the nature of trouble, and in choosing the lesser evil.”
― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
“But I don’t,” Jacob said, “and neither do you.”
He was looking at Bella, eyes focused to pinpoints. All his energy directed at her.
It felt like a challenge.
“No,” she said, “you wouldn’t. I’m going to attribute it to the extra thick werewolf skull.” She was trying to lift the mood out of the uncomfortable place it was in. She shifted in her seat, not able to hide the unease she felt prickling.
Jacob only looked at her, rolling his eyes.
It helped, but only slightly.
He needed to understand.
“I love him Jacob. It isn’t something that will change.” Her voice was soft, serious.
Jacob only nodded, processing this familiar, and grating fact. He was toying with the socket wrench he’d left out. Flipping it over, and over, and over. He was trying to distract himself all the things he didn’t want to think about.
“When?” he asked, finally not able to help himself.
“When what?” Bella responded, eyebrows curved downwards.
“When?” he growled back, very softly.
Ah. Bella understood.
“In a few weeks,” she said. Almost a whisper.
He took a sharp breath in.
He had weeks.
The image of her, cold and stone-like, came to him, laying in a coffin, pretending to be dead. Other images of her, these much more lively, livid, flushed, of her in their time together span off into his fantasies of what he’d hoped for.
He must have sat for a while, because when he heard her clear her throat, he looked at her.
“Is there a date?” he managed, “Or—?”
“No,” she said softly, “in a few weeks.”
Something was rattling.
He looked down. It was the socket wrench. He put it on the toolbox beside them with a loud smack.
She jumped beside him on the bench.
She’d been nervous to tell him, he realized.
He still mattered to her. In a way she was cognizant of.
That way needed to matter more.
“Bella,” he said softly, blowing out a breath. His hands still trembling with anxiety. “I’d really hoped to be able to do this slower—smoother. But I think I’m out of time.”
“Do what?” she asked.
“Make you see what you feel,” he said. He brought his eyes to meet hers again. They were filled with confusion. “You love me,” he said simply. “You just don’t see it clearly.”
The consternation on her face was clear. Anger, too. “Jacob,” she said, “my feelings—”
He didn’t let her finish.
Instead, he pulled her to him, one hand cupping the back of her head, the other at her back, and his lips pressed to hers.
Her entire body tensed, stiff fingers dug into his shoulders, trying to shove him away.
It was, of course, pointless.
He felt her resistance, and wedged her lips open with his tongue.
Bella moved her head side-to-side, trying to dislodge him, an attempted ‘no’ coming out as a mangled “nrng!”
He’d opened the floodgates of feeling, and the full scope of them surprised even him.
He didn’t want to stop with simply kissing.
He didn’t want to stop at all.
But Bella had managed to kick him hard enough, her foot angling back to snap the toe of her shoe into his shin.
It didn’t hurt him at all, but he felt it.
When he pulled back, breathing heavily, body enervated, he felt her fist at his jaw, and the loud crunching of her bones, buckling under his denser ones.
It shocked him enough to let go.
She curled over herself, a series of guttural sounds spluttering out of her as she tried to grip her injured hand. When she could, she stood, facing him, “what the hell Jacob? What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” he said, “I love you. And you feel the same way about me. You just don’t see it yet.”
A derisive noise burred in her throat, her face cheeks an angry red. She was wordless with rage.
“Let me see,” Jacob said softly, gesturing towards her hand.
“No,” she muttered, and went to walk out of the shed. Jacob blocked her though, putting himself between her and the exit.
“Let me see it, please,” he said, this time more softly.
She shook her head. She was more than worked up. She just wanted to go home. “Quit it, Jake,” she said, and went to push past him.
His hand gripped her arm, just below the shoulder. “Let me see,” he growled. His tone, and the bite of his fingers made fear flare up inside. She stopped, alarmed by his angry hold.
Standing stiffly, she let him take her injured hand, and very gently examine it. “Nothing looks broken, but you might have fractured something.”
Bella didn’t say anything, her anger well hidden by her nerves. This was so unlike him. She wasn’t sure what to expect next.
“Let’s get you some ice,” he muttered, and, letting go of her hand, put his arm around her to guide her back to the house. It felt too hot against her back.
When they walked into the kitchen, Jacob grabbed an old bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer, and gently laid it on top of her hand. He hadn’t let their contact break yet, and guided her still with his other hand, towards the couch.
She was shaking now, the pain and shock of her hand asserting themselves. Underneath it, nausea threatened.
“I should go get this looked at,” she said, voice not quite level yet. “Can you take me home?”
Home , Jacob thought. As if. She’s going straight to them.
An unwelcome thought stabbed itself into his gut. What if they didn’t let her come back again? What if this was the last chance he had to convince her?
“Bella—,” he started.
“Jake, I just want to go home. I’m kinda done talking for today.” Her cheeks had flushed again. She was angry with him.
Anger was a strong emotion. It meant she was afraid of the other feelings she had for him too.
“I get it,” he said, “you’re afraid to admit what you feel. But…” he struggled for words, “the decision you’re making,” he blew out a breath, “is permanent. And if—”
“I’m sure, Jacob,” she said, this time through clenched teeth.
He put it in words that were plain. “He’s going to kill you, Bella.”
She shook her head at his stubbornness. “He’s not, he—”
“They’re dead, Bella. What the hell do you think being changed is?”
He was beyond frustrated with her blindness to this creature. “You’re so freaking stubborn! God!” His hands clenched at his hair, as he turned and walked in circles in the small kitchen. “You don’t see anything clearly, when it comes to him.”
Bella thought the feeling was pretty mutual.
Finally, done huffing and pacing, Jacob said, this more calmly, “If you can’t be honest with yourself, how can you know what you’re getting yourself into?”
She refused to speak anymore. She was done.
So, she stared straight ahead in stony silence, arms folded, as much as she could, the icy bag dripping condensation onto her shorts.
Jacob pulled her good hand away, taking it in his. The coldness of it made him swallow, thinking of what she would become if he didn’t intervene. A swell of panic rose up in this throat. He had to make her understand this. Her life literally depended on it.
He met her eyes, “you’re a horrible liar, Bella, except when it comes to yourself.”
She twisted away in frustration, wrenching her hand from his. “I’m not lying, Jacob.” She stood up, moving towards the door.
He stood too, but then pulled back hard on her arm. “You are, and if you think that you can convince me that I don’t see what I do, or hear what I do, or smell, you’re only fooling yourself.”
The disgust on her face must have shown, because a flash of anger rode up over his, and he picked her up with one arm, sweeping it under her, kissing her, and then carrying him towards his bedroom.
There was more alarm rising in her body than Bella cared to quantify.
“Jake,” she said to his lips, her voice trying to be steady, shaky and steely all at once. “Put me down.”
“I will,” he said.
Then he laid her on his bed.
“No!” she said through her teeth, and went to kick him away. He evaded it neatly, pinning her good arm above her head, and her active leg with his own. He was trying to be gentle, but his knee pushed painfully into the softness of her inner thigh.
“Do you think I would hurt you?” He asked, waiting for her angry and heavy breaths to lessen.
After a moment, she said, “not deliberately, no.” She squirmed, hoping he’d see from the tenseness in her face, that he was.
“Or make you do anything you really don’t want to?”
The hackles on the back of her neck rose. She wanted the answer to be no, but she was frightened by the conviction she saw in his eyes.
“Let go,” she said quietly, the shake in her voice now rooted in fear.
“No,” he said, shaking his head, “you’re lying to yourself so much, I can see your nose growing.”
Bella said nothing, trying to flex her good hand, nervous about trying to pull it away. Her injured one throbbed.
He was hovering over her, watching her face intently.
“Why do you think he doesn’t want you here?”
She snorted, letting her anger speak, “Well, I thought he had unreasonable opinions about you being an idiot.”
“He knows how you feel, Bella,” Jacob answered, “about me.”
He smirked at the glottal sound that escaped her throat.
“He sees how you respond to me. It’s why he’s so possessive every time he drops you off.”
She couldn’t disagree with Edward’s possessiveness. And right now, she didn’t blame him for it. She let her wrist squirm again under Jacob’s grip.
“Tell me,” he said, “that this doesn’t do anything for you. I’ll stop if you’re right, Bella.” Then he kissed her again. She turned her head away in disgust.
“Fine,” he said, as if this was a challenge.
He moved his attention to her neck.
When he felt her stiffen in surprise, he knew he’d had his desired effect.
Bella was running a rapid-fire list of assurances through her head. He wouldn’t let this go much further. Edward would kill him. No, she told herself, he wouldn’t kill him, he’d destroy him.
And she’d be happy to watch, the angry side of her mind yelled.
But Jacob’s free hand was roving, freely discovering the span of her ribs, and brushing his thumb up the underside of her breast. She twitched at that, the tone of her inner commentary shifting dramatically.
Not happening. This is not happening.
Jacob interpreted all her movements to his own advantage.
“That’s it,” he murmured, hand finding the hardening nipple there.
“Jake, stop,” she said, “fine, you’ve made your point, get off of me!”
“No,” he said, and brought his lips to hers again, “you’re still lying to yourself.”
Frustrated, angry, and frightened, Bella moved her right hand to push him away, hissing at the sensation that rippled up her arm.
“Stop fighting this,” he murmured.
Then his free hand switched its upward movement, turning the other way, slipping under the loose band of her shorts. With a familiarity that startled her even more, it found its way to the small nub of nerves buried beneath her soft folds.
She gasped at the unwanted intimacy. Her face would have been flaming if it wasn’t so blanched in shock.
She went to open her mouth, but Jacob’s lips stole her opportunity to protest vocally.
He was moving his fingers, swirling them softly around. She had never been touched this way, not by anyone, and the unfamiliarity of it was shocking enough, making her breath come faster. She just wanted him to stop.
Then he slipped one of his fingers inside, his thumb continuing its motions.
A sob lurched up from her throat.
“It’s OK,” he said, “it’s OK to enjoy it, Bella, I can feel that you want to.”
Bella wanted to cry.
She just wanted him to stop.
Not happening, the voice in her head repeated, as Jacob slipped another finger inside. The pressure bordered on the painful, and a small noise bubbled in her throat.
Jacob’s lips were pressed against her own, his tongue making free explorations of her mouth.
She stopped resisting him, going slack, hoping he understood her utter non-participation.
When he moved his lips to her neck again, her voice was quiet with grief. “Please stop. I don’t want this.”
But Jacob was only listening to the talk of her flesh, and it was responding as all flesh did to touch. The slow swelling there was all he wanted to hear.
“Lying,” he said. “I can feel that you want me,” he murmured to her ear, shifting his position, the press of his hand on her wrist increasing as it took more of his weight.
The strangled breath that she let out stopped, as he released her hand suddenly.
She took several short breaths in, feeling him move away. She’d closed her eyes, trying to cope with the deprivation of one sense.
Thank God, she thought.
Then she felt him pull her shorts off.
This action had only registered, when she felt him over her again, his hand stopping her good hand from pushing him away. “It’s OK,” he said.
His heat, diffuse from his clothes, was direct now, and the horrifying realization that he was naked made her tense, body panicking, trying to shove him away. Her contained limbs offered no leverage, and when the panic was spent, she realized that it wasn’t his hand she was feeling pressed between her thighs.
“That’s it,” he crooned, taking her horrified stillness for compliance. He let go of her good hand, caressing her face, “just relax.”
She was anything but relaxed. She had her good hand at his face, fingers crooked for his eyes, but he palmed it back down above her head, his other sliding under her shirt.
All her straining was useless, pinned by his weight.
The sensation of heat, poised to enter her, made her stiffen in fear.
Not happening. Definitely not happening.
His shove was rough, and she felt the catching pinch in her own tissues, unprepared, strained by his movement. This uncomfortable stretch grew, a balloon of pain swollen beyond its limits. The final give was sharp, rippling upward through her, bubbling into tears that clouded her vision.
Jacob’s body had found its rhythm, his steady tempo yanking her into new brackets of pain. His hardness was relentless against the resistance of her flesh.
When he let his lips move away from hers, her voice was small with pain, her breath spent in enduring. “Jake, it hurts. Please stop!”
“‘S’OK,” he murmured, kissing her again, “it hurts the first time. It’s OK.”
The breath she could spare was gone, and she closed her eyes, just trying to breathe through wanted to pretend was not happening.
Her hand, under his, clenched and strained. He released it, and when she brought it up to shove at him, Jacob took it for more of her pretentious anger. Fine , he thought, keep pretending you don’t want to.
Because he could feel exactly how much she wanted to.
The sensations shivering over his body, and hers, became the forefront of his thoughts. Her, and him. That was all there was, and oh, if this wasn’t the most exhilarating thing ever. He felt her, soft and tightly pliant over himself. He attributed her squirming to being the product of a pleasure he sought for himself.
It didn’t take long. As the sensations built, a consuming wave took all sense and understanding from him. His hands found the soft curves of her breasts through her shirt, and then satisfying purchase around her ribs.
She could barely breathe.
The powerful forces of her mind shut down the places that let memory form. She told herself this simply wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening.
It wasn’t happening.
When the last spasms left him, he took her continued shiver as the reciprocal after effects to what he’d felt.
He kissed her again, moving himself to her side. He was dimly aware of a wetness than seemed too much to just have been the product of his own release, and when he stole a glance, muttered, “sorry,” to her, leaving the room quickly, and returning.
“Here,” he said softly.
Bella stared at him, still trying to breathe in a way that didn’t hurt. Trying to understand what the large, flat, and white square was that he was offering her. She pulled at the blanket on the bed, covering her legs. Trying to cover the rest of her.
“You’re bleeding,” he said gently.
Still she said nothing, swallowing instead, staring at him.
The sensation of him softly wiping between her legs brought her to herself.
“I’ll do it,” she said, then remembered, too late, her right hand, as she reflexively went to move it.
The pained hiss was not lost on Jacob.
“Sorry,” he said, “we need to get you to a doctor, have that looked at.”
Her thoughts were so fuzzy with shock, she could only nod.
She felt like she was hovering above herself, lost in trying to process what was happening.
What could not possibly have happened.
“OK,” she mumbled.
Jacob was looking at her, frowning. “Do you want to take a shower or something first?” He was watching her try to clean herself up. She wasn’t doing very well.
A shower seemed like a very normal thing to do. Maybe she would feel better after a shower, she told herself. “OK,” she whispered.
Standing under the spray, she tried to keep her right hand out of the water. It was difficult, and awkward, and she was alarmed by the sensations that her own touch elicited. Her mind refused to connect the pieces of what had happened, and she finished quickly, dressing slowly, hindered by the use of only one working hand.
No, she told herself, nothing happened.
That definitely did not happen.
“You ready?” Jacob asked, rapping softly at the door.
“Yes,” she said quietly, pulling it open, cringing back when he reached for her.
He was oblivious to her body language. “Good,” he said, and then pulled her into a hug, this loosening as he kissed her.
She tensed again immediately.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “I know this is a shock. It’ll be OK.”
What was a shock? She thought.
Nothing, and everything registered. The details of everything she could see, touch, hear, and smell swirled into her memory, unfiltered, untouched by the processing of her mind. They were then neatly buried by a safe layer of denial.
Nothing had happened.
She had just hurt her hand. That was all.
“You don’t need to tell him right away. It can wait a bit. Give yourself time.”
It wasn’t so much a thought, as an instinctual reaction when her mind yelled NO as loudly as possible. To what, she didn’t want to pinpoint.
“Let’s go,” she said shakily, wanting to be gone.
She knew Carlisle wouldn't be at the hospital, and she allowed herself to experience this small relief. Then she shut down that part of her mind. Jacob stayed with her, letting her explain to the triage nurse how she’d fallen, and hurt her hand.
“Mmm,” the woman said, studying her shaky demeanor shrewdly. “That happen a lot?”
“Falling?” Bella asked. “Yeah, fair bit.” Her intonation was flat. All wrong, she knew. She couldn't quite tweak it to sound right.
She told herself that nothing was wrong. She just needed to get her hand looked at, and then she could go home. Everything would be fine.
Everything would be fine.
She was already dampening down the memories that were muddily trying to form themselves, smothering them in denial.
Her breathing, and the smarting stings in her arms and ribs were unhelpful reminders, as was the deeper pain that lurched with every wrong movement.
When Bella was called in to see the doctor, the nurse stood between her and Jacob. “You family?” she asked politely.
“No,” he said, watching Bella begin to walk away, frowning, angry at being blocked.
“Just wait here until she’s done. I’ll call you.”
“OK,” he grumbled to the nurse, and to Bella, “See you in a bit.”
She shied away from his kiss.
This was not lost on the nurse, who was already suspicious of Bella’s demeanor, and that a fall would hurt the back of her hand.
The doctor who saw her was young and new, and mercifully efficient. “Fractured knuckles,” he said. “Good news is you only need a brace to keep them steady, but you do need to keep it on. No cheating.” He wagged a finger at her, smiling.
She nodded solemnly, the shaking lessened by the normalcy of this interaction.
Outside, she could hear a whispered conversation between the nurse and the doctor. He didn’t bother to keep his voice low after the first few exchanges. “She seems fine to me. If you want to follow up, its all yours.”
Bella was left alone for a bit, but then heard the tell-tale squeak of approaching shoes. The nurse slipped into the room, setting a cup in front of her. Juice. “Here,” she said, “you look a bit shaken. That might help.”
“Thanks,” Bella said softly, taking it, sipping slowly, carefully.
“So,” the nurse said, “just filling in the insurance paperwork. Where were you when you fell?”
“At my friend’s house,” she said.
“Oh yes, where in the house?”
Bella tried to stick to the truth as much as possible. She knew what would happen if she told the whole truth. Charlie would be called. It was the last thing she wanted, his shrewd senses heightened by her injury. “In his workshop.”
“What caused you to fall?” she asked.
“I tripped over a bit of uneven flooring,” she supplied. The shed did have uneven flooring. This was safely true.
“And how did you fall? Can you show me?”
Bella stood, trying to think quickly how she would have fallen, that would produce this injury. She faked it as best she could, and the nurse looked begrudgingly satisfied.
“OK, thanks,” she said, “you’re ready to go. Your boyfriend is still waiting for you.” She filled in the notes for the suspected domestic abuse form, and tucked it away, reminding herself to file with the local authorities later.
Bella didn't correct her. Didn’t want to explain. It seemed like too much of a can of worms to open.
Jacob didn’t let her go at the front steps, but took hold of her good hand. He didn’t want to kiss her there, out what had happened. He would let her take her own time on this. “I love you,” he said, “you’ve always known that, but you know how you feel now. Don’t forget that.”
The shivering returned, and she couldn't find words to end the interaction. She pulled away and tripped up the stairs, stumbling inside the front door.
“Hey kiddo,” Charlie called. “Was wondering if you were ever coming home. ‘Bout to start sending out a search party.” His tone was light, but she knew she’d worried him on some level.
“Sorry Dad,” she said, swallowing nervously, coming into view of the living room, holding up her injured hand, “had to make a stop on the way.”
“Oh crud, what happened?” He stood, coming to her, looking at her raised arm.
“Tripped, you know,” she shrugged. “Jake took me to the hospital. Fractured knuckles.”
Charlie frowned in sympathy. “Why don’t I handle dinner then?”
Despite everything that had happened, Bella didn’t think she was ready for Charlie’s cooking. She snorted, more good naturedly than she felt.
“I was thinking pizza,” he said genty, “wouldn’t want to inflict my culinary charms on an invalid.”
“Thanks Dad, that’d be great.” She got the words out, just. The feelings she’d held at bay were threatening, rising up her throat, ready to choke it off. “I’m kinda beat, though. Gonna go lay down for a bit, maybe take some tylenol.”
“Sure,” Charlie said, already sitting back down, “dinner in a hour or so?” he asked.
She nodded, and then fled to her room, back against the door, sliding down to the welcome neutrality of the floor.
She put her hand to her mouth, grabbing something soft from the floor—a shirt she’d worn yesterday—and stuffing it to her teeth, stifling the sobs that erupted from her mouth.
A/N: Have about a third of this story plotted out so far. If you'd like it to continue, please leave me a word, or a question, or a suggestion or a critique in the comments - it is most motivating to read these (consider such things food for your local, friendly, neighbourhood writer). I respond to all questions, so please make sure you're logged in when you comment.