A/N: This fic is very similar to my Time and Truths fic. I suppose it could be classified as a rewrite. A major inspiration for this story is the song "Pull Me Up" by Kwassa. Check it out if you get a chance. PLEASE review.
Bella finished stocking the shelves of camp stoves before moving on the next aisle of sleeping bags and lanterns. She continued working, chipping away at the tasks Mike had left for her before he took off for the evening. It had been while since Mike had tried to persuade her to join him on their nights off, and Bella was thankful that he seemed to have given up. She was also glad for the opportunity to be alone in her work. She didn't have to put on a mask that way, though she wasn't sure the facade she wore hid the pain she lived with day in and day out.
She counted backwards in her head and sighed as she continued unboxing the camping equipment. Thirteen months. That's how long it had been since she had last been herself, or at least the version of herself that she remembered. Thirteen months since she had been forced to teach herself to breath every moment he wasn't with her. She dropped the box-cutter she had in her hand and wrapped her arm tightly around her ribs, holding herself together. She still couldn't say his name.
A loud banging on the storefront door brought her out of her thoughts. She took a moment to gather herself before she turned to see Jacob standing at the glass door, his wide grin warming her inside and out. Pulling the ring full of keys out of her pocket, she quickly slid the lock aside and opened the door for her best friend.
"Hey Bells! Guess what came in the mail today!" Jacob beamed at her as he pulled her into a small hug. He towered above her, and from her vantage point she noticed the grease stains smeared all over his t-shirt before her eyes slid down to a cardboard box, smeared with some of the same black stains that now marred her navy blue work vest.
"Jake! You're filthy!" She laughed, feigning disgust as she pulled away and dramatically reached for a roll of paper towels to throw at him. Jacob's grin was even wider now.
"It's the master cylinder I've been waiting for! Now I can get the Rabbit running!" Bella had no idea what he was talking about. He dug into the box and pulled out what resembled a long rod, dotted with various valves along each side. The iron fixture was about 6 inches long, and looked more like some strange sprinkler fitting than anything that resembled a working part for a vehicle. All the same, Jacob's excitement was contagious, and Bella couldn't help but grin back at him.
"That's great, Jake. Now I won't have to be the one behind the wheel all the time." Bella smirked as Jacob rolled his eyes dramatically; placing the pipe back in the box it had come from.
"Tell me about it, grandma. That old beater out there needs a break."
"Hey, no talking dirty about 'ol red! She's been a very loyal steed!" Bella hated anyone bad mouthing her truck, and Jake knew it. She reached up to smack the back of his head as he dodged out of her way.
"Alright, alright!" Jacob put his hands up in defense, "You ready to get out of here?" Bella nodded as she turned to grab her jacket from underneath the register. She would have to bring her vest home with her to get out the oil stains that Jacob's hug had left earlier. Flipping off the lights and locking the door, she turned to make her way out to the rusty iron giant Jake had insulted seconds before.
"He didn't mean it, promise." Bella eyed Jake pointedly as he rolled his eyes at her, sliding into the passenger seat while she lovingly patted the hood of her truck.
Bella was nervous, though she tried not to let it show. Tonight they were meeting the pack at Emily's to discuss the vampire that had been stalking Bella as of late. She had never met Emily before, and hadn't had many kind words to say about Sam and the rest of the pack before she had learned about what was really going on, i.e. a band of teenaged werewolves running around protecting the La Push reservation from other mythical creatures that Bella hadn't known even existed until less than 2 years ago. You could say things were a bit strained all around.
Bella sighed again shakily as she pulled into the drive of the small white cottage that lay just east of La Push. It was quaint, despite the run down appearance. Warm light emanated from the tall windows and small beds of wildflowers sprung out from the boxes beneath the shutters adorned with peeling blue paint. She could hear the faint boisterous laughter emanating from inside as they sat quietly in the cab of her truck.
"Hey, facing a bunch of hungry teenage werewolves should be nothing after all the time you spent hanging out in the lair of a bunch of bloodsuckers." Jake winked at her before pulling her into a small hug and then pushing the door open to step out onto the gravel drive. Bella grimaced. She knew Jake was just trying to lighten the mood, but she hated being reminded of her time with the Cullens.
Here goes nothing.
Bella swallowed down her nerves and followed Jake onto the porch and through the screen front door, the hinges groaning against the force of his hand. The front room consisted of a small kitchen and dining room, with a doorway to what looked like a sitting room beyond the kitchen table. The cabinets were painted a soft yellow, a bright contrast to the dark hardwood flooring. It smelled inviting, like fresh baked bread and a hint of cinnamon. The warm light shining from the antique chandelier above them and the sound of booming laughter immediately set Bella at ease as Jake took her hand and led her to the small kitchen table.
"Alright guys, make room. This is Bella." Jake shoved Embry aside as he pulled out a chair for Bella and gestured that she should sit.
"Bella! It's so great to meet you. I'm Emily. Please, make yourself at home." Emily smiled at her and Bella was a bit taken aback by the long scars that ran the length of her cheek and down to her forearm and fingers. Bella nodded at her and tried not to notice the marred features that looked out of place next to the woman's delicate features.
"Hey Bella. We were wondering when Jake would finally share you with the rest of us." Quil teased Jacob, dodging his elbow aimed at Quil's ribs while Bella blushed and scooted closer to the table. The laughter seemed to echo around her before Sam, the leader of the group, stood and waited for silence. He towered over everyone but Jake and his presence seemed to command respect, though so far he had not spoken.
"Alright, we're here for a reason. We can't risk losing time tracking this thing, so let's get down to it. Bella, Jacob says you have some information that may help us." He nodded her way, and Bella's blush deepened before she spoke.
"Y-Yes. The vampire you're chasing, Victoria, she's after me, and she isn't going to give up easily."
"Good, it's boring enough chasing her around as it is." Paul groaned before Sam silenced him with a look, waiting for Bella to continue.
"Her and her former mate, James, were excellent trackers. It was kind of their 'superpower' I guess. She's relentless, and she wants revenge."
It was Jacob who interrupted her this time.
"Revenge? Why would she want revenge on you?" Sam gave Jacob a stern look but did not speak.
"She's angry that her mate was killed by the Cullens last year. He came after me and chased me all the way down to Arizona. He was ruthless. She thinks I'm still with… well," Bella couldn't bring herself to say his name, and instead continued, "A mate for a mate. That's what she's after."
Bella's blushed furiously and wrapped her arms around her middle, holding herself together. Many faces around the table looked surprised, though Jacob's only showed anger.
"Wait a minute, you mean when you fell down that flight of stairs in Arizona that was…" He didn't have to finish his sentence before Bella nodded and stared down at the floor. Jacob didn't speak again, but she could feel the anger rolling off of him in waves.
"Well, this changes things a bit. Is there anything else that might help us, Bella?"
Bella swallowed, strengthening her resolve before she continued.
"There is… well… there is something you should know. I can't speak for Victoria, but I do know the Cullen's possessed certain abilities that they used to their advantage when fighting her."
"What kind of abilities?" Sam's deep voice was the only sound echoing in her head, other than the repetitive whisper of her shallow breathing.
Bella steeled herself, pushing down pangs of guilt and swallowing the bile rising in her throat. All this talk about the vampire coven she used to consider family was tearing a hole deeper into her chest.
"Well Alice, she could predict the future, but it was never definite. Her visions relied on every decision made by the person or event she was focused on." No one interrupted, so she continued.
"Her mate, Jasper, he could influence the emotions of those around him. Make them feel what he wanted them to feel. You wouldn't even know he was doing it if he didn't want you to."
"Anything else?" Sam's voice seemed strained as he waited for her reply.
"He could read minds." Bella spoke quickly, staring at the pattern of groves along the hardwood floor beneath her feet.
There was a pause before Sam spoke again.
"Who could read-,"
"Edward." Jacob didn't let Sam finish his question before he spat out the name of the vampire Bella had been in love with only last year.
Bella could feel Jacob's eyes burning into her, and she shoved her despair aside at the sound of his name, tucking it in a box she could open at a later time, when she was alone.
"Fucking great. How are we supposed to fight a leech that can do all that?" Embry broke the silence, voicing his frustrations.
"I don't know that she can. From what I gathered from the Cullen's, these abilities aren't necessarily typical in a vampire." Bella's voice trailed off as everyone began to speak at once.
"Enough. We will manage. Thank you, Bella." Sam nodded at her and she gave a small smile in return.
Why did she feel like she had betrayed the vampires that had become so close to her before abandoning her last fall?
Emily interrupted her thoughts with an offer of muffins, which Bella obliged.
Anything to take her mind off of them.
The meeting quickly began to wrap up as the boys scarfed down Emily's cooking and Sam gave them their patrol assignments for the night. Jacob was to take her home and return to the reservation.
"And what, leave her wide open for that leech to attack? Now that we know that's what she wants, we need to expand our patrols." Jacob stood from the table and gestured towards Bella. He seemed to tower over the other boys in the room, and Bella saw a glimpse of the man Jacob was becoming. Stubborn, but commanding.
Sam looked frustrated with Jacob's outburst, but nodded in agreement.
"Alright. You keep watch along the forest edge at her home. Stay hidden. The last thing we need is a damn search party looking for some rabid wolves. I'll send Paul to relieve you in a few hours."
Paul groaned at this, but a sharp look from Sam stopped his complaints. Bella felt embarrassed that all this fuss was being made over her, but she didn't speak.
"You know, now that we know what the leech wants, we could use that to our advantage." Sam seemed to be thinking out loud as Quil and Paul began to rise from the table to take their shift on patrol.
"Whoa. Leech bait. Good idea." Paul snickered softly as he grabbed a muffin from the pan off the table. Jacob knocked his hand away before grabbing him by the collar of his shirt.
"I don't fucking think so." Jacob had shoved Paul against the wall and was about to take a swing at him before Sam's voice cut through the room.
"Enough. Paul, head out for your shift. Quil, you too. Jacob, get ahold of yourself." Sam's alpha voice was not booming or loud, but it didn't need to be. The boys obeyed.
Jacob turned back towards Sam, his fists balled at his sides. A bead of sweat gathered along his forehead, and he practically glared daggers at Sam.
"We are not using her as bait. Are you insane? Our job is to protect and defend, not dangle her around like a fucking carrot on a string!" Jacob's voice was shaking, his anger barely controlled.
"We are to protect and defend our tribe, and I will use any advantage we have for that." Sam looked sideways at Bella, who had her arms wrapped around her torso again, staring down at her boots.
"Besides, it may not come to that, so calm yourself. I've got some thinking to do."
With that last admission, Sam took Emily's hand in his and tenderly brought it to his lips. He turned to walk out the screen door before anyone could respond, leaving Jacob fuming behind him.
"Bella, give me a minute." Jacob's heavy footsteps trailed out the door and in another moment, Bella heard the sound of a tree snapping just along the forest edge. Emily gave her a look of sympathy, or maybe understanding. Bella wasn't sure which. She heard Jake's footsteps on the porch outside and stood to join him, thanking Emily for the food.
She found Jacob sitting along the end of the deck, his long legs draped over the edge, grazing the ground below. Bella joined him, though her legs hung awkwardly below her, several feet above the damp dirt that Jacob was now kicking back and forth.
"Hey. He's right, you know." Bella leaned over, bumping shoulders with him as she swung her legs nervously beneath her.
If she could somehow help the wolves target Victoria and get an edge on her, this would all be over so much quicker. She hated that the people she loved were in danger yet again.
"Absolutely not. Do you hear me, Bella? No." Jacob's words were harsh, leaving no room for compromise. Bella hated the look of anger and defiance in his eyes. She took his chin in her hand, pointing his gaze towards her face.
"Jake…" Before she could get anything else out, Jacob interrupted her.
"No, Bella! Jesus Christ, do you have a death wish or something? NO!" Jacob raised his voice, standing and pacing back and forth in front of the small cabin that was nestled along the edge of town.
"Dammit Jake, I'm not made of glass! I may not have magical "wolfey" powers but I can help!" Jacob grinned at her use of air quotes and stopped his pacing, pulling her up from the porch and into his arms. Bella was annoyed at his amusement and felt about as commanding as a wet kitten.
"C'mon, let me use my wolfey powers of persuasion and convince you to let me take you home." Jacob took her hand and gave her a grin, and she let him guide her to the truck.
"Fine. Go easy on her though." Bella cracked a small smile and Jacob pulled her into a brief hug before opening the passenger door for her to climb up into the cab.
They spent the ride back to Forks sharing an easy silence while Bella held herself together with a tight grip on her torso and the doorframe. Pushing the thoughts of the vampire coven she loved so completely back down into her subconscious, she put on a smile again for Jacob and almost met his eyes when he looked back at her.
She could fall apart later, when she was alone. At least for now, she could pretend to be in her bubble, where no one else would notice her pain.
No one else but the werewolf madly in love with her, trying to keep his eyes on the road as he watched her try not to come undone beside him.