The Birthday Gift
They were all there in the room, except for the mind-reading asshole and Dr. Fang. I expected hostility, rage or even an attack, but instead, they seemed comatose. No one acknowledged my presence, even though I knew every single one of them could hear, see and definitely smell me.
At first, I thought maybe Bella had died. Maybe they had tried to turn her and failed. Then, I heard the heartbeat coming from upstairs. It was weak, and irregular, but it was still a heartbeat. I knew it was hers. She was alive, and she was still human. If Edward and the doc weren't here, and the rest of them were all zombies, that probably meant she actually was sick. Was it possible the leeches had been telling everyone the truth, the whole time? I suppose it wasn't outside the realm of possibility that Bella caught some rare, tropical disease. She was a magnet for disaster, after all.
Without asking, or bothering with salutations, I ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time. I followed the sound of her heart to the end of the hallway. Before I could burst into the room, Edward opened the door.
"She's not awake yet, but she should be soon," he said quietly, his head bowed and his face somber.
"What did you do to her?" I demanded.
"Jacob, this wasn't Edward's fault. It was no one's fault; the important thing is that-" the doctor began.
"No, Carlisle," Mr. Know-it-all interjected. "It was my fault. Jacob, I know you will never forgive me. I can only hope that she will one day." With his head down, he slipped past me and left the room.
I looked to the doc for answers. He was a straight shooter, for the most part.
"Perhaps you should come in and have a seat, Jacob," he said, pulling out a chair for me.
I looked over at the bed, opposite him and saw her laying there. If I weren't able to hear her heart, I would have thought she was dead. Her skin was pale, but with a grayish pallor, not the usual peach. She was so thin that I could see her cheekbones jutting out of her face. Was it possible for someone to lose that much weight in just a few weeks?
"What the hell did that ass do to her?" I yelled.
"She got pregnant, Jacob."
I couldn't say anything at first. I thought, maybe, I had misheard him, but there weren't too many words that sounded like "pregnant", and it wasn't like I was hard of hearing.
"What? You're kidding, right? Did someone slip into the honeymoon suite without that telepath noticing?" It was just ludicrous. He had to be joking, but this was not the time for jokes, and the doc was no comedian.
"We had no idea it was possible, but Bella got pregnant with Edward's child. It developed extremely fast and was depleting her to the point where we feared it would eventually kill her."
"So you ... took it out of her? She's going to be okay, isn't she?" The doc nodded, but still looked grave. "I don't get it. What's the big deal then? What is it that she won't forgive him for?" I looked down at Bella, still human. I wondered what could have happened that would be unforgiveable.
"Jacob, Bella wanted to keep the baby. We removed it against her will."
My jaw just dropped. I was shocked into silence. Leave it to Bella to want to keep a damn monster that was killing her. She didn't just attract them, now she was friggin' making them!
"The amniotic sac was as hard as our skin," the doc continued. "Edward didn't want to turn her under those circumstances, so the only way to get the fetus out was to perform a hysterectomy and remove it from the sac once it was detached from her body." He let out a loud sigh, and at that moment, I thought he would actually cry. "It broke our hearts to do it, but it was the only way. We had to remove it all, her uterus and her ovaries."
Okay, so that was just way too much information. Once the initial shock wore off, I couldn't help but taste the bitterness in my mouth, even under these circumstances.
"Well, it's not like she expected to have kids," I spat out, suddenly aware of where I stood in this drama that was Bella's life. "I'd say she's in no position to complain." I stood up, ready to leave. There was nothing more for me to do here.
"Jacob, please, there is something I'd like to ask of you," the doc said, causing me to stop and turn, looking at him. "I wasn't expecting you today, and I don't even know if this will be any consolation to her, or even of any use, but I must ask. There is barely enough time as it is."
"Ask what?" I inquired, the resentment apparent in my voice. What more could they possibly want from me? What more did I have, that she hadn't already taken?
"Perhaps you should take a seat again. Please, remember that you do still love this girl.... If this is something she wants, it may also get you what you've wanted, to keep her human. I know that Edward wouldn't stand in the way, if she chose this. And ... her birthday is in less than a week away."
"Just spit it out, doc. If it's something I'm not going to agree to, her birthday coming up isn't going to make a damn difference." It was irritating how everyone seemed to know everything that was in my heart and mind like it was an open book.
To say the 'request' was unexpected would have been an understatement, in the very least.
The next twenty minutes were the worst twenty minutes of my entire life. Afterwards, I left the big white house, still in human form, dreading ever phasing again. The last thing I needed was for any of the guys to know what I had just experienced, in that house, with all those friggin' super hearing vamps around, not to mention the goddamn mind-reader. Well, that kind of pissed away my dream of going wolf on a permanent basis....
Six days later...
"Jacob?" I never should have answered the damn phone. I could never forget her voice. Just one word was all I needed to know it was her.
"Yeah, it's me," I answered flatly.
"Could I ... see you? Please?" she asked hesitantly.
I wasn't prepared for this. I had just assumed she'd disappear from my life and that would be it. I had even lost the urge to kill the whole bunch of them after what happened less than a week ago. I didn't want to think about it, just in case it made me hope for the impossible, because I couldn't afford to start hoping for lost causes again.
"Why, Bella? What would be the point?"
"Jacob ... do you hate me so much that you can't even stand to talk to me anymore?"
I couldn't admit it to her; I could barely acknowledge it to myself, but her words hurt me. What she thought, how she felt, still mattered enough that her pain became mine.
"Fine, can you come here?" I wasn't sure what condition she was in, but I just couldn't go back to that house again, with all of them there.
"I ... I don't think I can get myself there on my own. How about if I met you at the treaty line, like we used to?"
Like we used to ... she made it sound like we were going out for a soda or something. Nothing was like it used to be.
"Fine, when do you want to do this?" I barked, trying to sound as irritated as possible, and hide any trace of optimism from both my voice and my consciousness.
"Can you meet me in an hour?"
"Oh, and Jacob?"
"Yeah, what now?"
"You'll have to bring the Rabbit. I won't be able to ride the bike."
I hung up, all pissed off at myself for not standing my ground, yet again.
One hour later - actually, it was only forty-five minutes, because I was that pathetic - there I was, at the treaty line, leaning against my Rabbit. Yeah, it was just like old times - not.
She arrived five minutes after I did, but it wasn't in the Volvo. An AMG came to a slow stop just on the other side of the line, and the doc's wife got out. She went around to the other side, opened the back door and emerged with Bella in her arms. Bella looked better than she had six days ago, but it was obvious she was still recovering from the surgery.
I ran to meet them, my arms out to take Bella. The damn vamp smiled at me with this face that looked almost motherly. It wasn't right.
"Bella has a phone with her, Jacob. I'll be here to pick her up whenever she's ready." She smiled at me again and turned, heading back to the car.
"Thanks, Jake," Bella said, once the Mercedes had driven away. "I know this isn't easy for you."
I placed her gently into the back seat, silent. I saw her flinch, as she bit her lip, probably to keep from making any noise.
"Didn't they give you any painkillers?" I asked, irritated at the presumed oversight.
"Yes, but I didn't want to take too many. They make me sleepy, and I wanted to have a clear head for this, for you."
Why the hell did she have to say shit like that? It was because she said those things that I couldn't let go. Actually, it more than just her words that drew me to her, but I didn't want to acknowledge those other reasons.
We drove in silence. I didn't know what to say anyway, and she looked like she was deep in thought. I had no idea what she wanted to discuss that required a face-to-face meeting. What more was there for us to talk about? I could only come up with one thing, but I tried not to think about it. Thinking too hard made me slip into the chasm of optimism, and I couldn't allow that to happen.
It was tricky, but I got her into the house and onto the couch without causing any more pain than she was already in. Dad knew Bella was coming over, so he had gone over to visit with Old Quil for the afternoon.
"Thank you, Jake," she said, once she was settled.
"For what?" I asked casually.
"The birthday gift."
"I told the damn leech it wasn't a 'birthday gift'."
"Well, thank you all the same."
"Yeah, you mean 'thanks for something I'll never need or make use of, even if it is literally your flesh and blood,' right?" I responded, my voice dripping with rancor.
"Jake ..." she whispered, looking down, ashamed and apologetic.
"Forget it, Bells. I actually don't want to talk about it." I couldn't stand looking at her like that. It just reminded me of how pitiful my life was, and who had made it that way.
"I'm not going to be changed, not yet." That made the chasm burn brightly with a light of hope. I tried to make it fade, afraid it would burn.
"Why? You like post-operative pain?" I asked cynically.
She ignored my bitter sarcasm and continued in the same sanguine tone, as if I hadn't said anything at all. I knew it was an effort for her. My unhappiness affected her just as much as hers affected me.
"Even on the honeymoon, there were things I decided I liked about being human, things I didn't want to give up. It was enough that I told Edward I'd like to delay things ... so I could go to college when we returned."
"You gave up your perfect, eternal, happily-ever-after to go to school?"
"No! I mean, that was just part of it, but it's not what I wanted talk to you about." She let out an exasperated sigh. "Now, I don't just want to delay it to buy time, to experience a bit more. I want to delay it to think, as well. When Edward told me what he had done, I was so angry. I wanted to ... I don't know. Not quite kill him, but close. I still do."
"Look, Bells, as much as I'd love to sit here and listen to you think aloud to yourself, it's probably not the best thing for me. You know, from a mental-health perspective."
"I'm sorry about all that, Jake. You don't know how-"
"No, please, don't start with the apologies. I've gotten enough of those from you to last until the end of time," I said, interrupting the barrage of inflated regrets that I knew were coming.
"You're right," she replied, stopping her pity-fest. "Anyhow, after I calmed down, Edward and Carlisle told me about the ... hysterectomy," she continued. "It was one of the saddest moments I've ever experienced. After I had time to process it, they told me about your bir- your gift, and it made me happy."
"I don't get it, Bells. What are you saying?" She was using words that could break me, or make my life whole again. I was afraid to know which it was, but I had to know. It would consume my life, if I didn't know for sure. "You have to spit it out straight, no dancing around."
"I made a mistake, Jacob," she answered, in a clear, blunt voice. "There was so much I never thought about enough, too many things that mattered that I didn't know ever would. It's like you said before, I didn't know my own mind, and like the last time, it took you to show me what was true, that I was blind to."
"You're dancing," I commented flatly.
"I don't want to give this up, Jake," she said, taking my hand. "I want to stay human, stay Charlie's daughter and have you in my life. If you'll have me, that is."
"And what about your husband?" I demanded, not yet ready to accept what she was saying.
"He promised you, and me, that all he's ever wanted was my happiness. He's willing to let me go, without fanfare, if that's what I want."
"I don't believe it."
"But you heard him yourself, that night, in the tent."
"Not that. I believe him. It's you I don't believe."
"Jake, whatever you might think of me, you have to know that I could never give my life to someone who would forcibly perform an abortion on me. It makes me wonder about all the other things he's done to protect me. I looked at them all as endearing and caring at the time, but this one was too much. This was more than just concern; it was a total disregard for what I valued as a human being."
"I see. You've realized that the prize behind curtain number one was not so great after all so you've come to claim curtain number two?"
"You were never number two; I just hadn't realized it until now."
"And what was the reason for this great revelation to come about?"
"It was what you did. I don't know anyone that would give his children to someone who had rejected him, over and over, and to top it all off, she was going to run away to become, and join forces with, his one, natural enemy. You gave me your children, knowing they would belong to that which you hated most in life, all because you loved me most in the world. You were giving me what I wanted, even though you believed it wasn't in my best interest."
"Shit, Bells! I've always let you have your way; the same way your dumb-ass husband always let you have your way. In fact, who the hell ever let you not have your way? Charlie? Can't see that happening. Renee? From what I've heard, she never paid enough attention to put her foot down about anything."
"No one's ever given me a pound of flesh, until now."
"It was only a few cells."
"You know it was more than that."
"So, what now?" I asked skeptically.
"Carlisle's had the embryos stored in a facility where they can be retrieved if I should ever decide to have children, and I find a surrogate to carry them. He's even paid up for fifteen years of storage and placed a fund to pay for the transfer and a surrogate's medical costs."
"That's not exactly what I was asking about."
"Are you going to answer me?"
"The Cullens are leaving for good once I've recovered, and I'm staying here. I've already talked to Charlie and had my stuff sent over to his place. I'd like to be friends with you again, and maybe one day, we can try for more, if that's what you'd like."
"Is that what you'd like?" I said, throwing the question back at her.
"It's the only thing I want," she answered. "Having you is more important than the ... embryos. You are what I need, the one I can't live without, in part, because you would let me live the life I chose, no matter what that was."
"Okay, then as my friend, maybe you can do me a favor?" I asked, finally feeling enough comfort to make a joke.
"What would that be?" she asked, smiling at my lightened mood.
"Talk to Sam about getting me off patrol forever?"
"You're going to run away again?" she enquired, stunned.
"No, but I just couldn't stand if the guys saw my thoughts once it drifts - and it will drift at some point - to how I had to whack off, knowing that whole damn coven could hear and smell everything!"
"Oh," she replied, suppressing a giggle. "Couldn't you have gone someone first? I'm surprised you just went and ... did it, then and there."
"It's not like I had a choice, Bells. The doc said the eggs would only be good for a short time, so they had to get the 'sample' as fast as possible, either through my efforts, or they'd have to put a needle in my ... ah, testicles."
"I never did ask Carlisle why he even asked. Why didn't he just freeze the eggs, I wonder?" She wasn't really asking me, just questioning in general.
"You just aren't one for getting all the facts first, are you?" I said, rolling my eyes. "Dr. Fang told me that fertilized embryos have a much larger chance of survival both from being frozen and defrosted later on than just the eggs. He's probably saved some unfertilized eggs too, you know, in case you don't want ... mine, but Carlisle felt they probably wouldn't survive long."
"I don't need them anyway. It's like I said, Jake, I only need you."
"Okay, I can be your best friend again, and maybe more one day, if that's what I want later," I answered, smiling.
She smiled back and took both my hand in hers.
"Friends, the second best birthday gift I've gotten today, and it was from you, too."
"Don't expect me to top this when you turn twenty."
"I have a feeling you could still top it."
I had a feeling I would, but I wasn't ready to tell her, yet. But I knew I would be ready, one day. Of that, I was sure.