"The worst is over, son."
Jacob no longer flinched at the coolness of Carlisle's touch, having become used to the contact against his heated skin over the past hour. Both were grateful it was over, and Carlisle's golden gaze no longer carried that disturbing expression of worry and concern. Instead his eyes only showed warmth and relief as he withdrew the needle from Jacob's other arm and placed the used syringe onto the stool beside him.
"Since I don't have experience with healing your kind, everything is trial and error. I've given you a great deal of morphine, and I suspect it should be kicking in soon." Jacob nodded in response. "You'll be just fine."
"Thanks, Carlisle." Jacob understood why the re breaking of his bones was necessary, but wished the first dose he'd given had been stronger…and worked quicker. Carlisle explained that since the rapid healing process was causing his body to repair itself, his bones would set incorrectly. At the same time, the pain was more excruciating than the initial run in he'd had with that dark-haired male newborn. Just before he could sink his teeth into Leah's female attacker, Jacob had been tackled from behind.
"You were very brave, son."
Son. Carlisle kept calling him that.
"You know I'm Jacob, right?"
Carlisle smiled kindly and nodded. "Alice saw Edward in her vision just before the newborns arrived." He replaced a cap over the syringe, placed it back into his bag, and then returned his gaze to the injured boy in the bed. "We owe you a great deal of thanks for what you did. And for whatever it's worth, Jacob, you are always welcome in our home. "
"Thanks." He watched as the good doctor left the room and heaved a sighed. It was a bitter realization that although he was sure Carlisle's invitation was sincere, Jacob also knew that in his own body he would not set foot in the Cullens home again. There was no doubt in his mind he would miss them all.
When Edward stepped in a minute later, Jacob observed the obvious guilt on his face.
"Bet you're glad you're not in my body now," Jacob said with a slight chuckle. The morphine had kicked in, but a shooting pain coursed from his right shoulder down to his right hip as he shifted in his bed.
"That's not true. I owe you a lot."
"No, you don't. You made the same sacrifice as me."
"True, but under slightly different circumstances."
"Doesn't really matter, does it?"
"I guess not."
The two were quiet for a moment, and Edward could hear Jacob's questions about Bella.
"Carlisle's talking to your dad and Bella right now. She's worried sick about you…we all were."
Jacob nodded, not even sure what he would say to Bella once she was there in person.
"Well, I'll leave you alone so you can get some rest."
Jacob quickly picked up on that note in his words. "Jealous?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Edward smiled. "A little."
"I'll tell you what: we can switch back, and you can lay here in pain."
"I wanted to thank you, Jacob…for everything. None of us will forget it."
He nodded again. "Yeah."
Edward turned to leave, but paused when he heard Jacob say his name in his thoughts and then turned back around. This time Jacob's left arm was extended, his hand outstretched.
As the two unlikely friends shook hands, they realized an unbreakable bond had formed.
"Edward? One more thing."
"What is it?"
"Go find the talisman."
"He's going to be fine," Carlisle reported, medical bag in hand.
"Thank God!" Esme said, embracing her husband as he walked through the door.
"That's good news," Emmett said. "I was worried about him." Rosalie nodded in agreement.
Alice's expression froze, and Jasper was the first to notice. "What is it, Alice? What do you see?"
"Something's different. I see Jacob. Here. Like us."
"Are you asleep?" Edward whispered as he lay beside Bella that night on her bed, his fingers stroking her hair as the rain drummed softly outside the window.
Their shared silence was lasting longer than usual, and now more than ever he wanted to know what was going on inside her mind.
"What are you thinking?" Bella asked.
"I was just wondering the same thing about you."
She cuddled against his chest, breathing his familiar sweet irresistible scent. "I still hate myself for what I did to Jacob. But, you know what he said? He compared you to an eclipse…and he forgave me so easily."
"Jacob's a lot more mature than I ever gave him credit for."
"Anyway, I'm happy that things are back to normal. No more Victoria. No more intruder. No more curse or body switching." Bella tilted her chin upward to meet the warmth in his amber eyes. "Now you."
"I was thinking the exact same thing."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I was just thinking that I missed some things from being in Jacob's body…being human."
Bella's lips spread into a wide grin. "Yeah, I miss that, too."
Edward's eyebrow shot up at her, now perfectly able to imagine the naughty thoughts floating around in her mind. "What I meant was, I miss being able to just hold you…without a blanket between us. And I miss sharing grocery bags full of junk food, and how nice it would be just to lay here with you…and go to sleep." He felt her warm fingers curl around his hand. "But I am happy to have had those moments with you, Bella."
She lifted her lips to meet his, engaging in a chaste kiss she would've preferred to deepen. Bella missed the same things, and now more than ever, couldn't wait for her life as a vampire to begin. With the drama of the past week behind them, there hadn't been time to consider the distasteful topic of Edward's proposal.
"Me too." A yawn forced its way from her mouth. "Although, I can't wait to become a vampire. I won't miss sleeping…or being tired, or eating…as long as we're together. You know, Edward, being human isn't as great as you think it is. You were only in Jacob's body for a short time." Another yawn escaped her lips, barely letting her finish her sentence.
Edward heard her breathing pattern settle into a steady rhythm and smiled. She was asleep. His fingers returned to her hair and brushed along her scalp with long, gentle strokes as he recalled the events of the day and how the Cullens had been devastated by Jacob's injury. Edward wondered what Jacob would think if he could hear what he was thinking now. "Being human isn't so bad, Bella. It's not so bad."
"And Bella was only pretending to be upset with me for breaking up with her. She didn't want Jacob to read in my thoughts how she was planning to deceive him, not even sure it would work, but was so afraid we wouldn't survive the newborns' attack, she was determined to try."
Back at home, the Cullens were seated on the couches, listening attentively to Edward's explanation of the events leading up to the change as he stood front and center with Bella's hand tucked safely in his own. He was struck by their confused expressions, disconcerted by how he was unable to read the thoughts behind the questioning looks on the group's faces. Edward felt that he explained it clearly enough.
"Did anyone locate the talisman?"
Rosalie spoke up, eyeing him with a smirk. "I did. It's safe."
"Good."His gaze turned to Bella beside him. "Thank God it's over. Now when Jacob's healed, we will bury the stone where it will never be found."
Bella was silent as her gaze raked appreciatively over him, and Edward felt a red heat spread through his body at her open display, aware that the others' eyes still were on him as well.
"I'm glad I can see you again…er, in my visions," Alice said, covering her eyes with her hand as she rose from the loveseat. "And that everything's back to normal," she added before leaving the room.
"Me too," Esme said, rising from her seated position, but keeping her eyes fixed on Edward's eyes while inching her way toward Edward. She reached a careful hand over his shoulder and placed a kiss on his cheek.
"Well, almost everything," Jasper said cryptically as he followed behind Alice, raising up his hands and backing away.
Edward shot a curious look at him, but before he could ask what Jasper meant, Emmett's golden gaze was before him, and their hands met in a brief shake.
"It was fun, but yeah, I'm glad it's over too." He leaned in and whispered toward Edward's ear. "Glad to have you back, Edward, and I'd hug you, but you really need to put some clothes on first."
"Clothes would be good, son," Carlisle said next, placing a hand on Edward's shoulder and then walking away.
"Clothes?" Edward looked down to find there was not a single scrap of clothing covering his skin, and as he moved his hands to cover his private areas, he understood now why everyone was staring at him that way. "I'm not wearing clothes! I don't understand." Edward wracked his brain; he had not just phased…
Rosalie and Emmett left, hand in hand, and the rest of the group had already filed out, leaving Bella and Edward alone.
"I have to get some clothes on," Edward said, self- conscious as a blush burned throughout every inch of his body, and he began moving toward the staircase.
"Why bother?" Bella asked.
"Bella, do you even have to ask?"
"Oh. You don't get it, do you?"
Edward willed his body to move at vampire speed as he climbed the steps, but was disappointed that he was limited to a mere quick human pace. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm not Bella."
"Edward, please. Bella always had what I wanted so she agreed to touch the talisman after I did."
At the top of the stairs, he turned to face her, hands still covering himself, outraged at what was coming out of Bella's mouth. "Are you joking?"
"Of course not, Edward. I know I look like her, but now that you know, I don't want you to call me Bella anymore."
"This isn't funny, Bella."
Her dark eyebrows drew together. "It isn't funny, Edward. Carlisle created me for you, remember? And now that we're both human, we can be together… just the way we were meant to be."
Edward felt that he'd been hit over the head with a baseball bat. "Rosalie?"
A disturbing smile settled on Bella's lips. "That's right."
In Bella's bed, Edward's body jerked behind her.
"Edward, are you okay?" she mumbled sleepily.
"I just had the worst nightmare," he replied, blinking and wiping his eyes.
"Wait, you were sleeping?"
Edward's mind swam through the haze of disorientation. "I guess I was."
After flipping on the light on her nightstand, Bella gasped at the sight of him. His formerly pale skin was now a neutral flesh tone, a shade darker than her own, and when she reached out to touch the skin of his arm, the customary coolness was replaced by warmth.
He'd lifted two fingers to his carotid pulse, widening his eyes at the beats he felt beneath his touch. "Am I…me?" he asked as his gaze ran over the length of his body.
"You are you, Edward," she uttered in disbelief, "but human." Bella reached out to feel a hint of stubble breaking through his chin. "How is this possible?"
Before he could finish his sentence, Jacob's face appeared at Bella's window, and he climbed through with ease until he was standing before them. His formerly dark eyes were a now a deep gold, and his features were sharpened. "That's what I would like to know."
It was early, and though the sun had barely risen two hours before, Edward, Jacob, and Bella stood on Desiree's front porch, waiting for her to answer. When she opened the door, Desiree's eyes widened as she observed her three unexpected visitors.
"Hello, Jacob," she said slowly, her brows furrowed as she processed the sight of the gleaming of sparkles on his face. She then turned to Bella and politely extended her hand. "You must be Bella. I've heard a lot about you."
Bella nodded, shaking her hand and hoping that Jacob's classmate had the answers they were looking for. And Bella was struck by surprise that he never mentioned this attractive girl before.
"Edward? It's nice to meet you finally." You are exactly as I imagined. Desiree was puzzled as she greeted him with a handshake. "But, you're different. You two are back in your own bodies, but Jacob's a vampire, and you're human."
"Yeah. What is going on?" Jacob asked.
"This is amazing. I've never heard of such a thing. You made the sacrifice?" she asked.
"We did, yesterday. We returned to our own bodies. Then early this morning, I'm lying in my bed, dreaming that I'm playing Xbox at the Cullens' house, and the next thing I know, I'm wide awake, and everything is in high definition again. What did we do wrong? Are we stuck like this?"
She shook her head and stepped out onto the porch with them. "I don't think you did anything wrong. If you've already returned to your natural forms, then this must be the result of something else. Did either of you touch the talisman again?" She shook her head again. "No, if you did that, you would've returned to each other's bodies."
"What are we going to do? How am I going to explain this to my dad?" Jacob asked, his voice rising frantically.
"Tell me this: have you tried returning to your natural forms?"
"How do we do that?"
She turned to Jacob. "How do you phase from a human to a wolf? You just will it to happen, right?"
Bibbidi bobbidi boo. Jacob and Edward looked to each other, then closed their eyes, and in a split second a fleeting sensation, a rush of cells and bones, and muscles pulled and shifted. When they opened their eyes again, the two males were back in their respective forms.
"Whoa," Desiree said, in awe of the change she'd just witnessed. "That's the coolest thing I've ever seen."
Speechless, Bella's eyes bounced from Jacob to Edward. It was like something out of science fiction movie.
"So, is that it? Was it just a one-time thing?" Jacob asked, hoping it wasn't.
Edward had read that in his thoughts, amazed to have thought the same thing.
She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Try it and see."
No sooner had she said that when the two were looking at each other once again, Jacob in vampire form, and Edward in human form.
"That's amazing!" she said, her voice giddy. "You can change back at will!"
"How?" Edward and Bella asked.
"Remember I told you, Edward, that Tahumei wasn't evil? As far as I know, you and Jacob are the only two who have ever been successful in switching back. I'll bet this is her gift to you."
"Gift?" Jacob asked, recalling the conversation when Edward relayed the story of Desiree's great aunt.
"Well, at some point during the curse, you two must've connected, must have developed some sort of liking of the traits each other carried. Am I right?"
The pair nodded, surprised by this.
"How long will they be able to stay this way?" Bella asked.
"I have no idea. This is as new to me as it is to them." Her dark eyes returned to the pair. "I'm sure you'll have fun figuring it out."
Edward and Jacob shifted back and forth a few more times experimentally until Jacob returned to his human form, and Edward was now in human form beside him.
"Thanks, Desiree," Edward said, "for everything. I'm sure we wouldn't have figured it out without you." Bella nodded gratefully, and Edward turned to her, "How would you feel about breakfast?" With a smile, Bella took Edward's hand in his, and bade goodbye to Jacob and Desiree.
Jacob's frown was obvious as Bella's red truck pulled away from Desiree's driveway.
"You loved her," Desiree observed. "I believe you made the greatest sacrifice of all."
With a wry smile, he met her eyes. "Nah. I couldn't have done it without Bella." He was silent for a moment as he considered his words. "Now, I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for the way I've treated you, Desiree. And I hope you will forgive me."
In surprise, she swallowed. "I like this change in you, Jacob. And don't worry; I'm not one to hold grudges."
"Thanks for everything."
"You're very welcome. I'm glad to help. Anytime."
He turned to leave, but stopped and then turned back around to find Desiree still standing there. "I was just thinking about what Edward said about you. He was right."
"You are very pretty."
Her eyes sparkled as she looked at him, and her dimples appeared on her cheeks when she smiled.
There was that smell again. Billy was sure it was neither the scrambled eggs nor the bacon he was cooking as he tried to dispel that bleach-like vapor from his nostrils.
A second later, it was gone, and his son hadn't answered him. To Billy, it seemed like something was very odd.
Jacob's injury had taken him dangerously close to death. Father and son had clung to one another the night before. Billy had not felt such devastation and then relief within the span of only two hours. He would be eternally grateful to the doctor… even if Carlisle Cullen was a vampire.
And dammit, there was that smell again.
"Yeah, Dad." Jacob's voice shot down from the hallway.
"Don't you smell that?"
"No." He wheeled away from the kitchen and met Jacob in the doorway. "Do you have one of the Cullens back there?"
The brows rose on Jacob's face. "No. Why?"
"I don't know. Maybe I'm losing my mind; one minute it's normal, next I smell that vampire stench. Then normal. Then vampire. Then normal, then vampire. Then normal, then vampire!"
"How weird," Jacob said, opting not to share the source of the smell. The shifting between forms was too much of a shock to him alone, and he was fearful of giving his dad a coronary. "Maybe having vampires here in La Push last night did something to you."
"Hmmm…maybe." Billy wheeled backward into the kitchen. "Yeah. Hope they don't make a habit of it."
Some prejudices never died, Jacob thought wryly.
"You look better," he said, stirring the eggs as he watched his son walk into the kitchen with barely a limp to show for his injuries. The wolves' healing process amazed him even now.
"Yeah. Carlisle…Dr. Cullen wants to see me again - make sure everything's okay. He said he would come here, but I'm just gonna go see him instead."
Billy shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I think you're fine now, but I'm no doctor. I guess it couldn't hurt."
Truly it couldn't hurt, and Jacob smiled as he ran to fetch the keys to his Rabbit.
"Okay, bye, Dad," he called out just before slamming the front door shut.
"Don't you want to eat?" Billy called out.
For once, Jacob didn't want to eat. Fearful of what effect, if any, a stomach full of food would have, he decided it was wise to take things slowly. In fact, once he was safely out of La Push, he planned on returning to vampire form. As the tires peeled out of the dirt, Jacob peered up at the grey, cloudy sky. Smiling, he recalled a tradition Emmett had once spoken about, accelerating his speed as far from the reservation as possible.
"You said he's coming," Emmett said to Alice as he paced across the living room floor.
"He is," Alice said, standing before the window, but her mental gaze was outside the walls of their home.
"When?" Rosalie asked.
"Soon. He's just a few miles away now."
"Would've been faster if he'd run."
"Patience, Emmett," Esme said. "We're all looking forward to seeing Jacob again, but we shouldn't overwhelm him."
"Esme's right," Carlisle said, placing his arm around his mate's shoulder. She had been giddy since Alice revealed the vision of Jacob's impending arrival. "We have no idea how his body has adapted to this new form, let alone his mental state…."
"Besides," Rosalie interrupted, elbowing her mate. "He's not coming here just to play video games with you."
Emmett's jaw dropped. "Well, maybe he'd rather play video games than tinker with car parts."
For the first time, Jasper spoke up. "I'm guessing he's not preparing himself for a trip to the mall," he said, teasing Alice.
With a smirk, Alice shook her head. "Not this time anyway."
"He's coming back, after today?" Emmett asked.
"So, who is it he's coming to see?" Rosalie asked.
Alice's brows furrowed. "He hasn't made up his mind, but he's close now - about a mile away."
The group was silent until a moment later when Alice was struck by another vision.
"What is it, Alice?" Esme asked, moving next to her.
A smile tugged at her lips. "We'll have thunder later this morning. And it turns out Jacob's a pretty good pitcher."
"So, how would you like your eggs?"
Edward was sure his eyes were bigger than his stomach as he processed the selections on the menu. "Scrambled. No - over easy. No scrambled," Edward said, embarrassed at his indecisiveness as he met the blue eyes of the waitress. "Wait, may I have both? One plate with two over easy and a side of scrambled eggs? And, I'd like an extra order of hash browns and bacon, if that's okay."
The blond twenty-something waitress winked at him, much to Bella's dismay. Apparently, Edward's good looks lingered in any form he took. In fact, Bella doubted that as the waitress took her order, the woman had hardly even looked at her. Déjà vu. It seemed ages ago since their first meal together here in Port Angeles. At that time, she hadn't imagined what her involvement with Edward might entail. Even now, though it seemed easier with him in human form as they awaited their order, she had no idea what these new changes in Edward had in store for them or their future.
"Do you think Alice can see us?" Bella said.
"I'm not sure. She couldn't see me before in Jacob's body, so I'm not sure she can see me now." His stomach had growled its protest for the hour-long drive to Port Angeles. In Forks, he knew he would be easily recognized.
"Do you think you'll be able to phase into a wolf?"
"I don't know for sure, but since I took Jacob's form and he took mine, I'm guessing that I could."
"What happened to the talisman?"
"Let's just say that until Jacob and I decide what to do with it, it's safe." Edward was sure that underneath the floorboards in Bella's room, it was not likely to be found.
Her eyes feasted once again on the flesh-color tone of his face, still unable to believe it. "This is weird, but, I like it," Bella said, reaching out her hands to his, somehow still expecting to find the predictable coolness, but found warmth instead as she pressed her palms to his. It certainly wasn't weirder than the whole body-switching fiasco.
Edward smiled, his lips falling into his lopsided grin as he savored the soft feel of Bella's grasp. It was a miracle to him not to have to worry about crushing her with his touch. "I like it, too. There's still so much we don't know, and I have so many questions about how this will all work out."
"But, we have eternity to figure it out, right?"
An eyebrow shot up on Edward's face. "Still so stubborn." He sighed, observing the determined look on her face. There were too many other things to worry about right now, and he didn't want to argue with Bella about changing her…not when there would be a wedding to plan…and right now nobody could say how this gift would impact their future. The only thing Edward was certain of was that Bella would be a significant part of it.
"Right?" she asked again.
He brought her knuckles up to meet his lips. "Yes, love. An eternity."
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