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Twilight fic: Singing in the Dead of Night 4/4

July 7th, 2010 (02:27 pm)

A/N: Thanks to those who have read and reviewed!

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

 

CHAPTER FOUR

It was dark out. Inky stillness, cloying and thick, surrounding him, filling him up. He was alone here, alone and lost.

It was an odd sensation, so different from how things usually were. Jacob lived a life of constant connection, unprecedented codependency. There was always someone else with him, other voices in his mind. It kept him relevant, kept him on the grid. A werewolf was never lost, never alone.

Except Jacob was.

He was moving, but he couldn't see. His feet tripped and stumbled, feeling out the ground as they padded forward. He was looking for something, but he had no idea what. Couldn't even figure out where he was, what he was doing.

He moved faster, willing his legs to move, pressing on, pressing up. Go, go, go. To find that missing something, to discover that hidden part. There was a point to this, there had to be a point.

But what? What point could there be? There was nothing here. No people, no trees. No Nessie, no tribe. No Bella, no family. No pack. Nothing.

The thought made him feel sick and he wanted to panic. He moved fast still, running now, sprinting and leaping. He hit trees, rolled down hills. It didn't matter. He had to find out.

Then the ground gave way and there was something soft beneath his feet. Fine and grainy.

Sand.

He blinked and for the first time, he could see. The beach was dark and empty, lonely waves crashing forlornly against the rocks. The beaches of his childhood, the waves of his ancestors.

Jacob realized then that he was thirsty. So thirsty that it didn't matter that the water was salt; it was there. He ran to it, lapping at it ferociously, drinking and drinking and growing more thirsty.

He whined, rolling over on his back in the surf and stared up. How could he be surrounded by water and still dying of thirst? How could he be so a part of everything and yet always so alone?

Then, there was a growl.

Jacob sat up and saw a large wolf coming at him. Bigger than any of the others. Russet in color, deep brown eyes.

Himself.

He was looking at himself.

His wolf self came closer, ignoring him for a moment and going for a water. At first, Jacob thought his wolf self might drink, might make the same mistake, but instead it dipped its head into the water, letting the tide wash over him.

The wolf played for a moment, soaking himself before trotting onto the sand. The wolf gave a might shake, spraying water everywhere.

Caught in the deluge, Jacob shied away. "Hey!" he said. "Watch it!"

The large wolf stopped, seeming to notice him for the first time.

The wolf came closer, and Jacob felt himself tense, almost reflexively. This wolf was huge, its large paws could crush him, its jaws could rip him in two. As a wolf, Jacob was more formidable than he'd ever known.

The wolf was next to him now, standing over him and sniffing uncertainly.

"Hey," Jacob complained, flinching when one of its large paws nudged him experimentally. "You might not want to damage the merchandise. What's good for one of us, is good for both of us."

His wolf self paused, stepping back. He sat down, looking at Jacob curiously.

Sitting up, Jacob felt uncomfortable. "What?" he asked.

Cocking his head, the wolf said nothing.

"What?" Jacob asked again, more insistently this time. "Don't just sit there. Tell me what you want."

Finally, his wolf self phased until Jacob was looking himself in the eye.

The human doppleganger didn't move, just stood there, naked in the moonlight, regarding Jacob with the curious look.

"What?" Jacob demanded again. "What do you want?"

"That's what I have been trying to ask you," his alternate self replied.

Jacob made a face. "I don't understand."

"Neither do I," his other agreed. "All this time, you have everything you want, you have everything you could ever need, but you still feel like this. You still feel alone. You still want more."

It wasn't the answer Jacob had been expecting to say the least. "I never asked for this life," he defended.

The other Jacob shrugged. "And this life never asked for you. You will never have Bella. You will never get to be the lone wolf."

"Exactly," Jacob chimed in. "That's the problem."

His other self almost laughed, incredulity visible in the moonlight. "But you have so much more," he said. "You have your family. You have your tribe. You have Nessie. You have the pack."

Jacob's jaw worked. "Responsibilities," he said. "And they all have strings attached."

"Strings that link you," he said. "You're the one who is so set on tying them around your neck. Make up your mind. Be who you are or be someone else. But just be. Everyone is waiting for you to make up your mind."

Jacob was going to ask what he meant, but he phased again, back into the large hulking wolf. Without a glance, the wolf bounded away, running along the shoreline, water fanning behind him as he sprinted.

The wolf looked strong. Perfect. A born leader. A true protector. A deserving Alpha to the pack. His gait was wide and even, each bound just as proud as the last.

That was who Jacob was--or who he could be. Strong. Peaceful. Whole.

He blinked and Bella was there in Edward's arms. Nessie was in front of them, smiling.

He blinked again and they were gone. Now it was the pack. Leah rolling her eyes, Quil and Embry joking. Seth looking at him like he mattered.

Another blink, another change. Nessie close to him, a hand on his face. I think you're perfect just the way you are.

Then Seth was lying in front of him, blinking up at him wearily. You can do anything, Jake.

Too much. He shook his head, and they were gone. Everything was gone except Jacob and the beach and the ocean that went on forever and his own voice in his head. Be who you are or be someone else. Everyone is waiting for you to make up your mind.

Jacob closed his eyes against it, closed his eyes against it all, and tried to remember how to breathe. To remember how to feel. To remember how to be.

It was his only thought as he slipped back into sleep and let the questions take him over.

-o-

This time when Jacob woke up, it was the real thing. He knew it was the real thing because he was achy and sore, with a muted throbbing in his leg. His stomach was strained and pleading.

Worse, it smelled.

Reeked, really.

Not unfamiliar, but bad. Cold and wrong and...

Vampires.

And not just Bella or even Edward. The whole lot.

He groaned. He wanted to go back to sleep.

"We already know you're awake," Edward said, none too helpfully. "You are of course more than welcome to continue sleeping, but Bella is getting rather anxious."

"No, I'm not," Bella said crossly. "I mean. Not really."

He had to crack his eyes at that, and the light blinded him. He blinked a few times, swallowing thickly. "It's okay, Bells," he said, his voice gravelly. "Cold blooded or not, you know where the action is."

She scoffed. "Down holes in the middle of the forest, apparently," she said pointedly.

Jacob had to wince at that. It was still a fresh and unpleasant memory.

"Pretty stupid, even for you," she admonished. "Running all the way back like that. Do you know what damage you could have done?"

He hadn't really been thinking about that at the time, but it hurt enough to make him wonder.

"You are fortunate, though. Despite the new damage you did to the leg, it is healing nicely," Edward informed him. "I'm sure Carlisle will want to check on you when he knows you're awake."

Jacob blinked a few more times, shifting as he put the scene together. He was in the living room, stretched out on the couch. His leg was in a brace and propped up. It was light outside, and the TV was on. Rosalie and Emmett were curled up together, watching something about zebras.

"What time is it?" he asked, trying to sit up. The action hurt, but it was manageable. Much better than before.

"Nearly four in the afternoon," Rosalie chimed in from the chair. She looked at him benignly. "That's impressive, even for you, dog."

A blonde joke came to mind, but along with that was another thought, far more pressing. "Seth," he said, looking from Bella to Edward. "Where's Seth?"

Bella looked away.

"Resting," Edward said. "Carlisle thinks he's going to be okay. Eventually."

The eventually was the tip off, it meant something. Jacob's stomach turned. "How is he now, though?" he asked. "I mean, is he really okay?"

Bella looked up. "He was pretty bad off," she said. "But Carlisle thinks he'll keep his foot."

Her voice was heavy, and the fact that she'd told him that much meant that the details were even worse. Probably worse than Jacob was ready to know right then.

"He needs his rest, though," Edward added. "As do you."

Jacob shook his head. "I need to see him."

"You suffered a serious compound fracture," Edward reminded him. "Carlisle can explain the details to you later, but I can say that phasing and running on your leg must have been very painful."

Jacob really couldn't remember anything specific about that. At that point, he'd only been thinking of Seth, of getting them both out of that hole before everything fell apart.

"It's not falling apart now," Edward said softly. "There are no choices to make this time. Just go to sleep."

Edward was no Jasper, but the power of the suggestion was just as powerful.

He was sinking back into the couch, already asleep when his head settled back into the cushion.

-o-

This time, thankfully, it was a dreamless sleep. Maybe the best sleep he'd ever had, actually, except the lingering smell.

When he woke up, sun filled the room, and he knew instinctively it was morning. He remembered falling asleep yesterday on the couch, which meant--

Jacob cursed mentally. He'd been out for over twelve hours. The rest of the pack would know they were AWOL now and he still hadn't seen Seth.

"Bella called Leah," Edward said.

Jacob looked up, seeing the vampire seated on a chair, reading a book.

He didn't pause his eye movements over the page. "They have been informed. I expect Leah will be here soon. She did not sound thrilled that Seth had been injured."

Jacob was pretty sure that was an understatement. He sat up, a bit cautiously, but found that the pain was barely there now. He looked down at his legs, which were covered by a blanket, and wondered how healed the wound was.

"Carlisle says you can probably walk on it, if you promise to keep the brace on for a few days," Edward told him, looking up. He smiled ruefully. "Though it was a concession since he knew you'd try to walk anyway."

Jacob blew out a breath, annoyed and tired. "You know, you could let me talk first," he said, even though his throat did feel dry and the words were rough.

Edward raised one eyebrow with a slight incline of his head. "My apologies," he said.

Moving awkwardly, Jacob worked his way to a sitting position, hauling his legs over the side of the couch. The brace landed with a thump and Jacob winced. "Besides, of all the questions you're answering, you're still avoiding the one I really want to know."

Edward paused, before abruptly shutting his book. "Even if I tell you Seth will be fine, you are not going to fully believe me."

"I need to see him," Jacob said. "I mean...last night, or two nights ago or...whenever, he was pretty bad off. I thought--" His voice choked off and he swallowed hard. "I thought he might not make it."

Edward's face remained impassive. "Seth's injury was grievous," he concurred. "Carlisle speculated that since the trap was still in place, Seth's body wasn't healing at its normally accelerated risk, leaving it susceptible to the blood loss and infection."

Jacob remembered, and the thought of Seth's pale, shivering form on the floor of the hole made him a little sick to the stomach.

"Once the trap was removed, however, Seth's body was able to start healing," Edward explained. "He was very weak, but he has rebounded fairly well. He's been mostly asleep since Carlisle brought him back. He gave the wound a thorough debridement and put Seth on a full round of antibiotics, which has helped him turn a corner."

"So he's going to be okay, right?" Jacob asked, still needing to hear it.

"Yes," Edward said. "He'll need a few more days of recovering than you do, but there should be no lasting impact."

It was a relief--to say the least. And a little mind boggling. He'd seen Seth, he'd seen the wound. It had been worse than anything he'd ever been forced to see before. At least on a creature that survived. To think that after everything, Seth was going to get a clean bill of health and be okay...

Well, it was just a lot to take in.

He sunk back for a moment, running a hand through his hair. "Seth wasn't even supposed to be there last night," he said, shaking his head.

"The celebration?" Edward asked.

Jacob glanced at him, only moderately surprised Edward knew about it. "Yeah, everyone was going to be there. I was sot of trying to be the good Alpha and let them relax." He laughed and it hurt in his chest. "So much for that, though, huh? I can't even protect the kid when he's running right beside me."

"This is not your fault, Jacob," Edward told him gently.

"He's my responsibility," Jacob said, almost reflexively. "Isn't that what being an Alpha is all about? Protecting?"

"Your species is there to protect the vulnerable population of La Push," Edward said. "The pack trusts you, but they are not unprepared innocents."

Jacob had to laugh. "Have you met Seth?"

Edward smiled slightly. "I have, and he is a very pure soul," Edward said. "But he is hardly a child in need of constant protection. He is a strong, capable warrior, just as all of you are."

There was something to that, but Jacob couldn't admit it--not yet. And Edward didn't know what it was like to be a member of the pack. What it was like to know that his decisions affected other people so profoundly. One mistake, and Jacob wasn't the one to pay, other people were.

"You're right," Edward said softly. "That is a responsibility I do not have. But you assume too much if you think that I don't understand how hard it is to let go."

Jacob looked at him, eyes narrowed.

Edward shrugged. "Ever since I met Bella, protecting her has been my only goal in life. She is my world. To lose her would be to lose everything. I know you share this feeling and understand it in your love of Renesmee, in your dedication to the pack."

Jacob wet his lips, looking away.

"Bella, however, has never been highly cooperative."

Jacob laughed a little. "She's always been kind of a klutz."

"And strong willed," Edward said. "It has taken me a long time to recognize that if my only goal is to protect her, than I am holding her back. Total protection is total control. It's not fair to me and it certainly isn't fair to her."

Jacob closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He opened them, looking at Edward warily again. "Are you trying to tell me not to obsess so much?"

Edward's smile was restrained. "I am merely telling you it is a fine balance," he said. "We have to make our choices and not limit the choices of those we care about."

Choices. It came back to choices. The choice to be an Alpha. Not just living up to a standard he had no say in, but accepting it as part of who he was. Like with Nessie. Fate picked her for him, but he chose to surrender to her, completely and without reservations. It was the best part of his life because of that.

Everything else, though--his tenuous position as an Alpha, his sometimes uncertain choices as leader of the pack--it made life awkward, forced. It was why the other wolves all seemed to be enjoying themselves and sometimes Jacob still felt like he was playing along. Why he hadn't been strong enough to prevent this accident from happening. He was trying to be an Alpha without putting his all into it. That just made him miserable and put everyone at risk.

Everyone is waiting for you to make up your mind.

He sighed. Some decisions were easier than others. He looked up, meeting Edward's amber gaze fully. "I need to see Seth now," he said.

Edward nodded. "Then follow me," he said, getting to his feet. He paused, regarding Jacob warily. "But carefully, please. You don't need to break any more bones in your haste."

Jacob snorted a laugh, pushing awkwardly to his feet. "Trust me," he said with bemusement. "I'm in total agreement with that one."

-o-

Getting upstairs was harder than Jacob had anticipated, and he hated that Edward had to hover. But it wasn't like Jacob's awkward clomping really gave the vampire much reason to trust Jacob's dexterity at the moment.

By the time he got to the top, he was more winded than he expected. Jacob would have been embarrassed if he hadn't been so close to his goal.

Edward, thankfully, was not prone to mocking his weakness (even though if the positions had been reversed, Jacob was not so sure he would have such restraint--not that that would ever happen since vampires were freakin' indestructible). Instead, the vampire merely led Jacob to a door, rapping on it once, before opening it and motioning Jacob through.

With a grateful look, Jacob limped through. Carlisle's office was one of the rooms he'd been in more frequently in the Cullen household. He'd gotten his share of scrapes and bruises over the last year or so, and the good doctor always insisted on a careful inspection whenever Jacob incurred an injury on their property. Considering how rough he let himself get and how wild his hunting adventures could be with Nessie sometimes, he had spent some time there.

The office was bright, with the windows open to the trees outside. Carlisle was reclining in his desk chair, going over a journal. He smiled brightly at Jacob, his fair skin twinkling ever so slightly in the sun. "I see you are feeling much better this morning," he said, his voice hushed.

Jacob limped closer. "Barely even hurts," he said.

"I will have to recheck it of course," Carlisle said. "But I assume you have other business you'd like to attend to first?"

Jacob tried to smile, his eyes darting to the hospital bed stationed along the far wall. Seth was positioned on it, his gangly form stretched out with his injured leg propped on a pillow. There was an IV stand with a single IV hanging from it. Seth's head was turned away toward the sunlight, his chest rising and falling easily, his thick black hair falling away from his face messily. "Is he...?" Jacob tried to ask, but found he couldn't finish the question.

"Resting," Carlisle informed him. "He keeps waking himself up every few hours to inquire as to your condition. It is slowing his recovery down, but the wound is already markedly improved. I wouldn't expect him on his feet for at least another day or so, but you wolves do seem quite persistent and surprising in your healing."

Jacob had to smile at that one, but it wavered. He glanced at Seth again, taking in the heavy bandages around his shin and foot. "And his foot--will be fine? I mean, when I last checked it--it was. I don't know. Cold."

Carlisle's expression was sympathetic. "Were he not a werewolf, he very well could have lost the foot," he said. Then he smiled. "However, we are quite fortunate that all of you have a hearty disposition and resilient DNA. I assure you, Seth will be up and about in not time."

It was the same line Edward and Bella had been telling him since he'd first woken up. It was still hard to believe. Seth had come so close, Jacob had been so desperate, so terrified.

Carlisle stood, resting a hand on Jacob's shoulder. "Sit with him, and see for yourself," he suggested. "And trust that you risk your own life to save his. Wolf or not, Seth would not have survived that night. So I suppose I cannot lecture you too much about the damage you did to your leg."

With a light squeeze, Carlisle brushed past him, the door shutting behind him almost soundlessly.

Alone, Jacob's gaze settled on Seth once more. He'd been so set on seeing Seth that now that he was here, he didn't know quite what to do.

He had to choose. He still had to choose. He was here, but that wasn't all of it. Jacob still had to choose to be the Alpha, to be Seth's friend and mentor, not just in title, but in practice, too.

The other night, he hadn't chosen.

Today, he would.

Stepping forward, he clunked his way to Seth's bed. There was another chair there, and Jacob eased himself into it, leaving his leg stretched out in front of him.

Closer, he could see that Seth did look significantly better. His color, though still a bit pale, wasn't as sickly as it had been. The color in his cheeks was lessen, a normal blush, not deep set with fever. There were still circles under his eyes, but his face seemed more composed, as though Seth were sleeping for real, not lost in a dark abyss of unconsciousness.

That was good, and Jacob knew it.

So why did he still feel on edge? Like he was still trapped down a hole with no way to get out?

Seth shifted on the bed, his nose wrinkling. The movement made the kid gasp and his eyes popped open.

There was a brief moment of disorientation on the kid's face before understanding calmed his features once again.

Jacob cleared his throat, and the younger wolf flinched, eyes going to Jacob. "So how's the leg?" Jacob asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

His attempt at keeping it cool seemed to go unnoticed by Seth. The teen grappled at his bedsheets, doing his best to sit up. "Jake, you're okay," he said. "I mean, Carlisle said you were good and stuff but it's weird not knowing knowing. You know?"

For as vague as the description was, Jacob knew exactly what Seth was talking about. "You're the one who's thrown everyone for a loop," Jacob said with a casual shrug. His confidence wavered. Looking at his hands, it was an effort to stay composed. "What exactly do you remember?"

"Not much," Seth said. He frowned, pensive. "I mean, I remember falling into the hole and your leg, man--it was a mess. Are you sure it's okay?"

Jacob nodded to the thick brace. "Healing like a pro," he said. "And really, you should be thinking about your own leg."

Seth's expression darkened a little, and he looked sheepishly away. "Yeah, I remember how much it hurt. Like a lot a lot."

Jacob cringed a bit at that memory. "Yeah, that part would be kind of hard to forget."

Seth hesitated for a moment. After a deep breath, his eyes flickered to Jacob. "I'm trying to find a way to say thanks without sounding too lame," he admitted finally. "But no matter how I think about it, it still sounds like a mushy movie."

Jacob tried to scoff, but Seth didn't let him.

"I'm serious," he continued. "I mean, I saw your leg. It was bad. And you ran all the way back in wolf form? Don't you know what that could have done to your leg?"

Jacob did know, better than Seth did. But that was really beside the point. "Would you rather I have let you die down there?"

Seth's shoulder fell a bit and he seemed to sink back into the pillow. He turned his head toward the window, a hint of despondency on his normally vibrant face. "Not really, but it's a question of importance. You know, what matters most."

Jacob knew that, knew it was why he'd made the choice he did.

Seth shook his head, looking at Jacob with wet eyes. "The pack can go on without the runt. They can't survive without you. It just wasn't good logic."

The words sounded foreign, like another language. But Seth's tone, the resignation, the certain, the pain, was pretty clear. The kid was weighing his life against Jacob's, his own worth against Jacob's perceived value, and coming up with an answer Jacob should have seen coming.

Because he'd heard Seth's fevered words in the hole. The feelings of being lesser. And all the pieces were falling into place about that--the way Seth was the runt, the kid, the last to chime in, the first to risk himself. He had never thought about it before, but Seth had taken a real demotion in the early days of the pack and that was hard on the kid--not just in day to day life, but emotionally as well.

The thing was--the real kicker was--that it was destiny that made that decision, nothing more than that. Seth just wasn't meant to be a Beta, not of that pack, not right then. It was nothing against the kid, it just wasn't who he was, it wasn't who he was supposed to be. And the point that Jacob still had trouble getting was that Seth had accepted his fate with a positive outlook and a purposeful demeanor. He hadn't sat around moping about it. He'd chosen it, for better or for worse, and hadn't regretted it, even when it hurt.

And it did hurt. Jacob knew that know. Sometimes Seth did think about what he'd had and what he'd lost. Sometimes he didn't like being bossed around. Sometimes he believed that he just wasn't as valuable as Jacob and he was okay with that.

Seth might be okay with it, but Jacob wasn't. He wasn't okay with any of it. He wasn't okay with anyone in the pack feeling expendable, he wasn't okay with any of them almost getting hurt, he wasn't okay with half-living his life just because it was his fate.

So it was time for a change, time to start again. He broke his leg in that hole, but a whole lot more than flesh and bone was going to be healed by it.

"The pack is all of us," Jacob said, with sudden fervency. "You and me and Leah and Quil and Embry. Mismatched and pretty screwed up, but we all matter equally. I may get to call the shots, but without you guys, none of them would matter."

Seth looked at him, almost surprised. "But you're the Alpha," he said.

"And you're my pack," he said. "Alpha, Beta, pick of the litter--whatever, man. It's who we are, but it's not what we're worth. We all have to make the choice to be a part of this, and that's where you've got all of us. You're always ready to do what needs to be done. You're too nice, man. That's why you're not Beta material. You'd listen to everyone and do what they need you to do before you'd make an order."

The words were coming fast and heavy, and Seth seemed to register every one of them plainly on his face.

Jacob sighed, laughing a bit. "It's what I respect most about you," he said. "You made your choice to play your part and never looked back. It's something we all can learn from."

Seth's brow creased and he swallowed. "You really mean that?" he asked.

Jacob did scoff this time. "You think I would give you all that Hallmark crap if I didn't mean it?"

Seth had to laugh, nodding. "Yeah, okay, maybe," he said. He paused, cocking his head. "I just...never thought of it like that."

"Yeah, well, it's kind of a new thing for me, too," Jacob admitted.

Seth nodded again, stifling a yawn as he did. "You still shouldn't have done it, Jake," he said, blinking a little, his eyelids heavy.

"Oh, stop with the self deprecation and just say thank you," Jacob said, his voice rough to hide the emotion he didn't know what to do with.

Seth's face broke into a grin and he settled into the bed. "Thank you," he said. Then he added with a dreamy voice, "For everything."

It didn't take but a second and Seth was out again, lax against the pillow, mouth hanging open in sleep.

Jacob chuckled to himself, giving a huge sigh. "Thank you, too," he said. And not just for setting his leg in the hole, but for everything. For helping Jacob see that there was more to the pack, more to himself, than he'd thought. For helping Jacob learn that sometimes it wasn't what they were born to, but what they made of it.

Destiny was a hole Jacob had fallen down, deep and wide and impossible to get out of. But it didn't have to be his prison. Because if he just looked around, everything he needed was right there. From Nessie to Bella, to Leah to Seth. The Cullens, Quil, Embry, the tribe.

The thought made him smile, and he realized that Seth wasn't the only one still in need of a nap. Sleep was calling to him, a comforting release, and he settled down on the chair, propping his leg up on and end table. He yawned, letting his body relax, and he fell into a deep, restful sleep, knowing that the world on the other side would be just as good as it was now.

end

 

Comments

Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: July 8th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)

*applauds*

I loved Jacob's dream sequence when he realizes that his life isn't all about responsibility, that he has a lot of good in it. And the way he talks to Seth about how they're all equal. And Edward being kind to Jacob. And...yes, I could go on.

I'm thrilled that you took on the dare of plunging the boys into the hole--awesome fic!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 11th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)

I was pleased with the dream sequence. I like it when I actually make the emotional arc work in a story :)

Thanks as always for humoring me!

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