|The First Breath
Author: LaViePastiche PM
When grief and uncertainty threaten to drown you, how do you catch your breath? For Support Stacie Auction winner JAustenlover. Collab with ElleCC. AH. Bella/Jasper.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Bella & Jasper - Chapters: 19 - Words: 100,161 - Reviews: 1,008 - Favs: 428 - Follows: 255 - Updated: 02-25-10 - Published: 01-03-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5637122
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Twilight series is the property of Stephenie Meyer - No copyright infringement is intended.
This entire fic is dedicated to JAustenlover who purchased it from the September Support Stacie Auction. Thank you, JA, for your generosity, and for your patience as we wrote way more than 25-50k.
I wrote Jasper's POV and Elle wrote Bella's. I apologize in advance to sensecoalition for what we're about to do....
Her arms, I know it hurts
It hurts to be young
Metamorphosis is pain, I know
I said it hurts to be young...
Been a Son
~ * ~
Peter is slumped in the passenger seat of my car, trying to sleep. He is distraught and I can barely look at him because I have never seen or known that kind of pain. It feels too raw and personal, so I keep my eyes trained on the road.
His father is dead. A cop, shot in the line of duty. In a dumpy little town in northern Washington, he was shot when he busted up a fight, unbeknownst to him, between a few rival gang members. Gangs… in Forks, Washington. I shake my head every time I think about it, the way nastiness has permeated even the sleepiest American towns.
People in my life have died – but never like this, never so unexpectedly. Peter said that although his father was a cop, it never occurred to him that he might be killed while on the job – Forks just wasn't that kind of place and his dad just wasn't that kind of cop.
I was there, in his dorm room, when he got the call. It was his father's best friend and fellow cop, a guy named Billy. Peter's tone was jovial for about three seconds before his shoulders stiffened. He dropped into a chair next to the phone and all the color drained instantly from his face. His expression was unreadable for so long, as he listened but did not speak. Finally, he squeezed his eyes shut, opened his mouth and whispered, "Bella…"
More than dealing with the pain of saying goodbye to his father, more than dealing with the funeral arrangements, the burial, the estate, and his own grief, he is terrified of seeing his twin sister. He said he was afraid everything would be amplified, doubled, when he saw her face. I told him maybe it was better that he had someone to go through it all with, but I knew it wasn't much consolation. I left the room when he called her, not just to give him privacy, but because I was fairly certain the conversation would be entirely too difficult to watch. When he came down to my room a few hours later and told me he was leaving to head back to Forks, I immediately offered to drive him. Pete doesn't have a car and I couldn't let him take public transit in the state he was in.
"Do you want to stop? Get something to eat?" I ask, turning up the heat because he looks cold.
"Nah. Wait, maybe can we stop and get a drink?"
I cock an eyebrow but I don't speak. It's not even two-thirty in the afternoon, but I figure he has a right to want a drink. I pull off the highway and find the first place that serves booze. It's just a dumpy little bar, but it'll serve its purpose just fine.
Pete takes a deep breath and exhales slowly before he gets out of the car. He keeps doing that, taking deep breaths, as if doing the smallest thing, like opening a door, is a challenge.
We walk inside and there are just two guys there, including the bartender. We sit at the bar and he immediately tosses coasters in front of us, and then places a dish of peanuts between them. I'm crazy hungry but I've heard things about peanut dishes in bars, and I don't want to order food in front of Peter. I have no idea why, but it just feels wrong to be eating when his father just got killed.
I order a beer and he goes straight for the hard stuff and orders a whiskey. The bartender plunks the drinks in front of us and I pay. Pete doesn't protest, but instead yanks his phone from his pocket and sighs again.
"Bella got on the plane about ten minutes ago." He downs the whole drink.
"How is she?" I immediately regret asking such a fucking stupid question. I wish I could grab the words from the air in front of me and stuff them back in my mouth. I'm not that great with dealing with sad people, and particularly not sad guys.
"Fucking…destroyed. This is surreal. I don't know how she's on a plane right now. I feel so bad for her, she's probably been bawling since I spoke to her." He shakes his head and flags the bartender for another drink. I'm tempted to advise him not to get shitfaced, that it will probably only make everything worse, but I remind myself that he's an adult.
Instead, I let him finish his drink in relative silence and then gently suggest that we should get back on the road. He doesn't protest and I realize that he probably just needed to take the edge off a bit. When we get back in the car he pulls his phone out again and stares at the text message from his sister. He shakes his head and turns almost fully to the window, and I know he's crying, so I look away and pull out of the parking lot.
Eventually, he calms down and finally falls asleep, and when he does, I can almost feel the tension in the car ease up a little bit. It's as if I can rest when he's resting. I don't get reprieve for very long though, because when I see a sign that says: "Forks, 12 miles," my gut twists up. I am nervous for him, and for myself, because it's sort of bizarre to witness all this grief without being a part of it. I feel like a voyeur.
I've already planned to offer to take him to the airport, to stay with him longer, if for some reason he needs it, and I feel like I am almost as apprehensive as he is about seeing his sister. I don't know her, but I know that seeing the two of them together will be fucking horrendous. I wince at these selfish thoughts, but I can't help them.
Peter wakes up just as I am about to nudge him, to ask him directions to his house. He rubs his eyes and then takes a deep breath, again. He looks around and then chokes out, "A left at the light. Then the first two rights. It's number two-oh-nine."
I follow his directions and as we pull into the driveway, and the house comes into view from behind the trees, he breaks down. I kill the engine and wait, not entirely sure of how I should comfort him.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck." He's taking gasping breaths between sobs.
After a bit, he regains composure and sighs. "Maybe we should have just gone to Seattle and picked her up, before coming here. I don't know why I had to get here first."
"We can go back. She'll land before we get there, but you could tell her to wait."
"No, no, it's okay. My uncle's there. He'll drive her up. I should go inside, make sure the place is cleaned up and stuff."
I nod and get out of the car first. I pop the trunk and grab Peter's bag as he slowly exits the car. He never said if he wants me to stay, never invited me to, but I packed a bag just in case. I leave that one in the trunk and follow Peter up to the house.
He fumbles with his keys until he finds the one for the house and then fumbles with getting it into the lock. I feel like hugging him, but that would probably be weird. He finally gets the door open but hesitates before stepping inside.
"This is bizarre," he says.
I nod and step past him. I turn on the hallway lights and look around. Finally, he steps in and his head snaps toward a table in the hall. I follow his gaze and see a little dish, presumably for keys, and a picture frame. The picture inside is of a tall, relatively well-built guy with a mustache and longish hair, Peter, and a girl, who I naturally assume is Bella. She and Peter appear to be about twelve or thirteen years old: both with the same dark hair – though Peter's, like his dad's, is closer to black than hers – and lanky bodies.
Peter's face tightens and I wonder if he wishes I were gone, so he could be alone and really cry like he needs to.
"Fuck," he spits. He stumbles forward and grabs the table to brace himself.
I wrap my hand around his shoulder and squeeze. "Pete, I can leave…I can leave you alone if you need me to, or I can stick around. It's up to you."
He shakes his head and his face is turning red because he's holding his breath. I don't want him to stop himself from crying. "You don't have to stay; I know you've got to get back." It all comes out in one big breath that he's been holding.
"I'd rather stay. I don't have to get back. It's your house though, and your family, and I don't want to intrude. I don't know if your sister will want me here, or the rest of your family."
Pete takes a deep breath and straightens up. He turns to me and his eyes are red and wet. "Can you just stay then? They won't mind and I kind of just…I just want someone here who isn't part of all this shit, know what I mean?"
I nod, but wonder if Peter knows how much this is affecting me. Not that it's anything close to what he's feeling, but still, I wonder how much good I'll be to him. I'm glad though, that he's asked me to stay.
"I'm going to grab my bag from the car," I say before squeezing his shoulder once more.
When I walk back inside, Peter is sitting on the stairs, head in his hands.
"You should maybe lie down for a bit," I say, dropping the bag on the floor by the steps. "I can probably straighten up a little; I'm sure I can figure out where everything goes."
"I doubt I can sleep." His voice is muffled.
"So then just rest. You'll need it for later."
He runs his hands back through his shaggy black hair and then looks up at me. "Yeah, I guess I should try." He gets up and walks up the stairs without looking back. His shoulders are slumped forward a little and he looks like a zombie.
I walk into the kitchen and busy myself immediately with straightening up. Luckily, the place doesn't look too bad. I toss the newspaper on the table into the recycling and then wipe the table down and straighten the chairs. I walk into the family room and fold the blanket that is crumpled on top of a recliner. I feel like I am disturbing a crime scene or further wiping the memory of Pete's father from his own house. There is a book on the coffee table; it's face down but open, probably to the last page he was reading. I leave it.
When I run out of things to clean and straighten, I open the fridge and look for something to eat. It feels sick, and weird, and wrong, but I'm starving and I have to eat at some point. I grab some cheese, a pack of sliced ham and a bag of sliced bread from the fridge and quickly whip together a sandwich. I put everything back in the fridge and inhale the sandwich in about five seconds, as if I'm afraid of being caught.
I open the fridge again and I hesitate as I reach for a beer. They're his, and I wonder if I should leave them. Instead I grab a can of Coke and wonder why I am being inconsistently sentimental. I just think that if my old man died, I'd leave his beers in the fridge for a while, or chuck them right away. I know I wouldn't drink them.
At eight-thirty, I start to wonder if I should check on Peter. I've heard no noise from upstairs and his sister is due to arrive any time. I've been occupying myself with the TV, and I don't want to disturb Peter if he's finally managed to sleep, but I'm not sure I want to be the first person Bella sees when she comes home. Some stranger on her dad's couch, watching SportsCenter on his television.
A bit before ten, I finally decide to get up and see what's going on with Peter. As I head to the front hall, to the stairs, I see headlights flash in the long narrow window next to the door. When I get to the door, I peek out and see that a black car has pulled in behind mine. I watch for a moment and a girl steps out of the passenger side. Though I've only seen her in one picture, at twelve or thirteen years old, I know who it is. She opens the back door and pulls a suitcase from the car and then turns, leaning back against the door to close it. She looks up at the house and my heart starts to pound in my chest.
I cannot describe the guilt I feel for immediately noticing how beautiful she is. Her hair is long, full, and dark. Even from the distance, in the dark of the night, I can see the beautiful angles and perfect symmetry of her pale face. She is wearing a tan trench coat and a scarf, and for one second, her face is calm and luminescent before it twists in what appears to be raw agony. It's the same face that Peter made in the car when he saw the house. She teeters for a moment and then she lets go of the suitcase handle. It drops on its face as she falls to her knees in the driveway.
I flinch because my instinct is to run out there to her, to pick her up and hold her, but I stop myself, remembering that she doesn't know me. Instead, I watch as a man in a black coat gets out of the car and sprints around it until he is at her side. He tries to pull her up but she won't move and she is sobbing. He holds her and rubs her back as she gets closer and closer to the ground. I finally remember where I am, and I pull myself away from the window to wake Peter.
I take the stairs quickly and knock on his door. When there is no answer, I feel a surge of panic, and I wish I had come to check on him earlier. I open the door and find him asleep on his side, his face illuminated by the light in the hall.
He shifts and mumbles, and then finally his eyes open and he slowly sits up.
"She's here," I say, and it's every bit as ominous as it sounds.
"Fuck," he whispers. "Where is she?"
"The driveway. You'd better go."
This fic was inspired by three song prompts provided by JAustenLover: "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by John Mayer, "Possession" by Sarah McLachlan, and "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles. The title and the beginning quote come from Them Crooked Vulture's "Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up."
A huge thank you to Legna989 who betaed this whole thing. This fic is complete and the next chapter will be posted on Tuesday (1/5)