Title: Here By Me
Blurb: The Cullens never returned at the end of 'New Moon'; in their absence all werewolf transformations stopped. Five years later the transformations begin.
Ships: Jacob/Bella, Edward/Bella + all other canon ships
Rating: PG-13, though could be higher for later chapters
Beta: All mistakes are mine
Notes: All titles courtesy of 'Here By Me' by 3 Doors Down ♥
Disclaimer: If I owned Edward Cullen I would not be sitting in front of a computer ;]
It could all fall down around me
The changes were gradual at first, so much so that if I was ‘normal’ they could have been perceived as fixable.
It was the heat that I noticed first, radiating from his skin and making it near impossible to share a bed with him (even with the air con). Most nights I’d end up on the front porch in search of the cool relief Forks had to offer. Then there was the growth spurt that turned all his clothes to dishrags - he brushed off the changes lightly, as if a ‘change in diet’ could have such effects. I didn’t argue.
I knew they were all changing. Werewolves were back in Forks, and Jacob was part of the pack. Yet I didn’t talk out about it. The changes, so blaringly obvious, were not brought out into the open. I didn’t ask him why he had to drop his head to get through the door. I didn’t ask him why he disappeared for hours at a time, or why whenever I entered a room filled with him and his friends, hushed whispers would descend as if I couldn’t be trusted with the information they were swapping. Even when he picked me up from college on his motorbike and I wondered just how the machine kept upright with his weight, I didn’t question it.
It was near midday if the slit in the curtain was anything to go by, and even though I wasn’t the lazy Sunday sort of person, I dug myself firmly in the covers, eyes still shut as I clung to a dream. A forgotten dream, but one I was sure I was enjoying. After another late night on the porch, though I couldn’t remember the trek back to bed, I needed those few short moments when sleep would take over and my mind would shut off. Those moments were nonexistent of late; the sunlight and activity downstairs making sure that I couldn’t stay in bed.
The smell of a cooked breakfast stalked its way up to the room, luring my feet to the floor and my hands to my eyes. I was used to robust mornings at the Black household. Jared’s loud laugh, Jacob’s hushed demand for quiet, the creak of Billy’s wheelchair as he made coffee, and Sam’s low and quick words that mediated between them. There were others there too, but my ears were not fined tune enough to pick up the quieter mumbles. It was then that I was fully awake, the haze of sleep disintegrating as those names rang through my head. There was an outburst downstairs, a few yells and shattered plates; Jacob seemed to be restraining someone. Then, as soon as it had started, the noise dispersed.
Jacob wouldn’t let any information slip about what was causing these changes, though I could hardly expect him to when I was going along with any line he spun. I wasn’t brave enough to ask him – I didn’t want the answer, if I was honest with myself – but I wasn’t above eavesdropping. As quiet as I could, though grace and coordination were out of the question, I crept to the top of the stairs. The kitchen door was slightly ajar - just enough room for secrets to slip through.
‘Jacob, be reasonable. You don’t kn--’
‘Yes I do.’
‘Are you sure they’re back in town?’
‘Charlie mentioned a moving van heading towards the old house.’ So Emily was part of the discussion too. I craned a little further over the banister, but didn’t dare go too far in case my impeccable balance decided to remind me of its presence.
‘I know that scent,’ Jacob said.
‘It doesn’t mean they’ve broken the treaty. No blood has been sh--’
‘If he’s been here then he's broken the treaty.’
‘We don’t know that, Jacob,’ Sam said, but there was an edge to his voice that Jacob wouldn’t question, not until it was explained. ‘Bella had a connection with them. The scent could just have easily been brought in on her clothing. Does she know they’re back?’
‘No.’ It was said with such conviction that all other mutters ceased.
‘He’s been here, alright? I know his scent,’ Jacob said, and it sounded like he was pacing the kitchen. ‘He’s crossed the line – broken the treaty. Are you just going to let him get away with it?’
‘You can’t let your feelings for Bella hinder your judgement. As far as they know there’s been no werewolves here for the last five years.’
‘You’re defending them?’ Jacob hissed.
‘No, but I’m not starting a war in Forks until I know whether or not Bella has had contact with them.’
‘I’m not bringing her into this,’ Jacob said.
‘You’re going to have to. If the Cullen’s are back in town then she’s going to find out,’ Sam replied. ‘It’s best if Bella has had contact with them, at least if we want to avoid conflict.’
‘Speak for yourself! I want a do-over with that big one,’ Jared interrupted.
‘Is there a scent on her?’ Sam said, bringing the conversation back on track.
‘She doesn’t know they’re back,’ Jacob said, his tone growing tired of Sam’s insinuations. ‘The leech has been here.’
‘That doesn’t answer the question,’ Sam replied through a breath. ‘There’s a scent in the hous--’
‘Fine. When she gets up I’ll let you give her a good sniff and then we can go beat the crap out of some bloodsuckers.’
‘I’m up for it!’ Jared said enthusiastically.
The discussion was over, the back door opening so that everyone, bar Jacob and Sam, could get some fresh air. Jacob lingered in the kitchen, but before I could make it back to the bedroom, Sam spoke again.
‘They were travelling with a woman according to Charlie,’ he said. ‘He was under the impression she was with Edward, so maybe that will help your judgement.’ He followed the others.
My heart was racing in my chest, and I hadn’t realised I had been gripping the banister until I tried to pull my hands away. The Cullens were back, but that wasn’t what lingered in my head. It wasn’t that they were back or that Edward had been here, but rather that he had been with another woman. In my head he was always on his own, in the romantic sense; he only needed his family. The notion of him moving on had never crossed my mind, not because it wasn’t possible, but because thinking about it, as I was finding out, made me light-headed, even nauseous. It brought a tightness to my chest as my breath caught in my throat. I believed completely in those final words he left me with; I had to. He didn’t love me anymore, but if I believed anything else from our relationship, I was also his first love. Had I really been so naïve as to think I would be his last? I tried to swallow the foulness that was clawing up my throat, but no promised sweetness could usher away a fresh swell of heartbreak.
I had told myself over and over that I was over him. It had taken a while; I wasn’t foolish enough to say it happened over night. Jacob had continued to be open with his feelings, annoyingly so at first, and it still took two years before we began dating. It wasn’t as if I didn’t love Jacob, and even if I hadn’t known it at the beginning I certainly knew it now. So why did I feel like this? Why did my heart race at the thought of Edward back in Forks? Had he been in the bedroom watching me sleep? Surely Jacob would have been woken by the scent.
I pulled my top up and inhaled deeply; it smelt of jasmine from the fabric softener, my human senses not capable of picking up the difference between vampire and werewolf. I didn’t know, which was the problem. If Jacob couldn’t smell it on me then a confrontation – a war – was going to take place in Forks, and who knew who would fall victim. The idea of human causalities made my heart rate erratic.
Panicking, I rushed back into the bedroom, locked the door and frantically stripped out of my pyjamas. After moving in with Jacob and Billy six months ago, most of my things were cluttered around the room; I had left a few of things at Charlie’s, just so it didn’t look as if I had completely abandoned him, but everything I valued, loved, came with me. Every worn copy of the classics, letters from mum, photographs, clothing… and not just mine. I rummaged under the bed, throwing the linens out of the way as I reached under, pulling up a floorboard and yanking out a shoebox. Everything I had of Edward was in the box: the lullaby he had written me, the tickets to
My sense of smell may not have been capable of picking up the difference between vampires and werewolves, but as I slipped my arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up, I could feel him. His cold skin still echoed around the garment, and the subtle scent that was just him clung to the threads, to me. It was torture – the sweetest, guiltiest sort of torture. For Jacob, it would be worse, but I was doing this for Jacob and Forks, I assured myself. Not to feel him.
I grabbed a random shirt (one long enough to cover the sleeves) and a pair of jeans, and pushed them over the top of the shirt. In Forks it was easy to pass off extra layers as ‘necessities’; I just hoped the weather would go along with my alibi. I quickly glanced at my reflection: my shirt covered the lie well enough, though the clothes looked crumpled when I turned to the side. As much as I didn’t want to see it, if Jacob reacted how I expected I didn’t think he would stick around long enough to notice.
Just as I was about to make my way downstairs there was a knock at the door.
‘You sure? Don’t you want to make yourself look inappropriate?’ he joked through the door. The seriousness of the conversation downstairs was still with him, it had to be, but his ability to put a brave face to it always shocked me. It would have been easier if he had come upstairs looking for a confrontation, but that wasn’t his way – with me, at least.
‘Come in, Jake,’ I repeated, careful to keep my voice steady. I wasn’t quite as talented as Jacob at hiding my emotions – I could only manage a feeble smile.
How was I supposed to do this? Did I need to hug him so he could catch the scent on me? He took several steps towards me and then stopped, his warm gaze hardening. Obviously not. Edward’s scent may have lingered around the house for reasons unknown, but now it was condensed – it was under my clothing, on my skin. He hesitated for the briefest of moments, as if sizing me up, before closing the distance and pulling me towards him. His frame was tense, his arms soldering me to him. For the first time in a long time I let the comparison with Edward begin. The hardness Jacob approached me with was familiar, but where as with Edward it was natural and, though quite impossible, capable of conjuring warmth, now it was just forced, as if he was trying to stop me from disappearing before his eyes.
His face was in my hair, breathing me in the same way I had done with Edward’s shirt. I was wrong about before. The shirt wasn’t torture - this was. I tried to speak, but if my mouth was connected to my brain it was slacking on the job.
‘You’ve seen him.’ There was no more joking on his voice. Instead there was a controlled hardness from a man using every ounce of self-control, and yet still willing, with a turn of wind, to let loose.
I didn’t have to look at him with my face in his chest, but I was no liar.
‘I’m sorry.’ I truly was; I didn’t want to hurt Jacob, but I didn’t want bloodshed because of me either. I was doing this for Jacob.
I hadn’t realised his fists were clenched until they flexed out on the small of my back. The silence was unbearable. Was he waiting for me to say more? Did I need to make up details?
‘So you know he’s with someone else?’ If I hadn’t, he definitely wanted to make sure I did.
I managed to nod enough for him to get the picture; I knew if I spoke then my voice would betray me, and he didn’t deserve that pain. He didn’t need to hear how much Edward being with someone else hurt me.
His body relaxed a little, his arms loosening to draw me closer into an actual hug. He kissed the base of my neck where a strong pulse betrayed every emotion I had. His mouth lingered there before creeping up towards lips. It was always the same: warm, rough, passionate. They were hardly distasteful traits, but I couldn’t fool myself that it was truly satisfying. Those feelings didn’t matter – I loved him, and that most certainly did matter.
He drew himself away from my lips and rested his hot forehead against my clammy, cool one.
‘He’s moved on, like you.’ He said it as if to reassure himself of our relationship. There was no question; it was a fact. I had moved on, with him. It was doubled edged comment, though. It was a reminder with an aura of blackmail - I had commitment myself to Jacob; if I cared for him there was to be no going back.
I knew this but as he left the room to meet the others in the yard, the tears that wouldn’t bring themselves to the surface at my lie, at Jacob’s pain, finally fell.
They were tears for Edward.
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